Mann, wer hätte das gedacht, dass es einmal soweit kommt #PlagueSongs, no. 21

The balloons are not red, and there is no toy shop. The narrator doesn’t dream of red balloons either. But, like its English-language counterpart (“99 Red Balloons”) Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (1983) is about an accidental, apocalyptic war triggered by 99 balloons. Luft means air, and ballon means balloon. So, literally, a luftballon is an air

4′ 33″ #PlagueSongs, no. 20. AND 43 notes on silence, time, & the corona era

1 There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. – John Cage, “Experimental Music” (1957), in Silence: 50th Anniversary Edition (Wesleyan UP, 2011), p. 8 Philip Nel, guitar and vocal, Manhattan, Kansas, 26 July 2020. 2   John Cage’s 4’33” was first performed

Someday we’ll find it. #PlagueSongs, no. 18

This hopeful, aspirational song is the first musical number in The Muppet Movie (1979), the first and best of the Muppet films. I chose it because I figure we could all use a little hope. Written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, “Rainbow Connection,” is one of two songs most closely associated with Kermit the

Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline. #PlagueSongs, no. 17

When I started assembling my COVID-19 Spotify mix (at Boston’s Logan airport, 13 March 2020), R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” led the playlist. It still does. At that time, I didn’t think I would actually try to learn it. The music isn’t difficult, but what

If you’re lost, I’m right behind. #PlagueSongs, no. 15

You’ll know Everything But the Girl’s Amplified Heart (1994) for its hit single “Missing.” But take a listen to a deeper cut from that record: “We Walk the Same Line” (Really, do listen to the original: Tracey Thorn’s alto is far more pleasing than my tenor.) The lyrics’ evocation of love and worry resonate in

My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14

Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was one of the kindest, most empathetic people in human history. We need more of his kindness and care in the world. That is one reason why this week’s Plague Song is the theme to his children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). I think, these days, fans of the show are

This is the time. #PlagueSongs, no. 13.

For my first punk “plague song,” here’s “There Is No Time,” from Lou Reed, one of the godfathers of punk. I chose it because it’s an urgent call to action. The song is two decades and many musical experiments after his Velvet Underground days, where he explores some of the sonic territory later embraced by

No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11

Given that I’ve played all of these on an acoustic guitar, you’d think I’d have covered a country song by now. But this song, co-written by Hank Williams and Fred Rose, is the first. Williams recorded “I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive” in June 1952, the single was released in November 1952, and