You know, there’s an idea that’s been floating around in my head for some years, and now that I have the means to write blog entries quickly and efficiently, I figured I might as well write it up (oh joy!).
So. There are a number of popular, well known songs that have fairly interesting histories. I’ve been thinking that someone with some decent writing skills (ie: not me) could do a lot worse than to write a “popular history” style book telling these stories. Divide it up into one song a chapter, give it a snazzy title, get it on Oprah and you’d be on the New York Times best seller list in no time!
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Originally written and performed as ‘Mbube’ by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds in South Africa in 1939 this song went through a tortuous number of twists and turns before morphing into one of the most recorded songs in history. And (until comparatively recently) Solomon Linda’s family didn’t see a cent for it. There was actually a lengthy article about its history in Rolling Stone magazine some years back – a good jumping off point for this theoretical book.
House of the Rising Sun – Originally recorded as “The Rising Sun Blues” by ethnographers working in the Appalachian mountains in the 30’s (trying to preserve America’s folk music heritage before it was homogenized by the arrival of radio). It too went through a number of adaptions before turning into the version we know today.
Amazing Grace – The official story is that a slave trader named John Newton had a religious revelation on the deck of his slave ship one night, wrote the words, and immediately quit the slave trade – becoming a passionate abolitionist. It didn’t actually play out like this in reality – he remained in the slave trade for another six years at least and didn’t speak out against it for another 30 years – but it still makes for a fascinating story.
So there we go, add in five or six more songs with interesting histories and you’ve got yourself a best seller! Just be sure to send me appropriate royalties 🙂