Opinion: Challenging lyrical truth in lyrics

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We owe a great debt to the many songwriters, musicians and singers who brought together our shared story in the liturgy of the Great American Songbook. Sure, we related to the narrative of the human condition, of love found and lost, and of the joy and sadness in everyday living. But often there would be simple lessons imbued in the catchy tunes and sultry deliveries. In moving a rubber tree plant, a little ant reminded us of what could be accomplished if we refused to surrender. And our hearts could find solace when circumstances separated us from the ones that we loved, if we could hold our memories of times together for a white Christmas, even “only in our dreams.”    

Perhaps since the beginning of spoken language, we have committed our mood, history and social customs to song. Somehow, it manages to instruct and persuade us even as it entertains. The so-called Rat Pack brought a hip post-war edge to our instruction. For a generation that lost its innocence on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, some found coffee and cigarettes suitable storytelling icons for the masses. Taking note that gambling is likely pointless without a good measure of Lady Luck standing at our side, singer Frank Sinatra admonished her to remember that he needed the support and not to “blow on some other guy’s dice.” Unwisely, he seemed to believe that she owed him loyalty.

Like so much of what we believe, there is little if any underpinning knowledge of its origin or thought about its application. If we sing it, we mostly believe it. Should we challenge, or at least consider, more than the sentiment behind popular music? Did the gambler have a right to expect his date to bring good fortune to his, and only his, dice?


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