My kids joke that I can come up with a song line at any point in the conversation. I guess that's what happens when you spend your childhood taping Casey Kasem's American Top 40. "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars," Casey reminded me weekly.
Sadly, I can't carry a tune, but that doesn't stop me from crooning around the house. When the kids groan, I sing louder. What I lack in talent, I make up for in volume. (Cue
The Carpenters' "Sing." "Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear -- just sing, sing a song ...")
Yes, pop music has provided the soundtrack to my life. If I happen across "Cherish" by The Association, I'll still stop on the dial and think of Claire, the first girl I slow-danced with in the eighth grade. ("You don't know how many times I wish that I could hold you ...") Although "Cherish" is perhaps the schmaltziest song ever recorded, I have to pause and recognize the girl who, for reasons still unknown, asked a pimply-faced nerd with a mouth full of braces to dance. Thank you, Claire, wherever you are. Sorry about all that perspiration.
Fortunately for my children, I moved beyond The Carpenters and The Association. Along my musical journey, I encountered the best rock station of all time, KBCO of Boulder, Colo. My in-laws in Colorado have guaranteed they will be taken care of in their old age by giving me KBCO's annual Studio C collection every Christmas.
When I was tuning in, KBCO occasionally asked its listeners to submit three-track sets based around a theme such as where you worked. I never got around to entering my set, so I thought I'd do that here for a change of pace from the cacophony of the news. You won't find Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" on my list because I've never met a journalist who delights in others' pain.
I'd open my newspaper set with Loudon Wainwright III's "Hard Day on the Planet," which reminds me of the gallows humor that keeps a newsroom light in the face of some tough stories. I laugh every time at the line: "Even Bob Geldorf looks alarmingly thin."
For my next song, I'd go with "Lawyers, Guns and Money" by that keen social observer Warren Zevon. Several songs by Zevon, taken from us too soon by cancer, could qualify for this set: "Boom Boom Mancini," "The Envoy" and "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," to name a few. I went with "Lawyers, Guns and Money" because these three elements in a story almost guarantee front-page placement.
I'd close the set on a philosophical note with John Mellencamp's "Check It Out." The highest honor you can bestow on a newspaper (or Web site) is to tell a friend to check out what you've read. On a deeper level, Mellencamp's song reminds me that we can't always understand the full meaning of daily events until time and wisdom intersect. A newspaper, after all, is but a first draft of history.
Obviously, my set tilts toward singer-songwriters of the 1970s and '80s. Perhaps you can update me with your heart songs. If you were writing to Casey Kasem, how would you craft your long-distance dedication to the workplace?
A million young poets
Screamin' out their words
Those words will be heard
By future generations
Ridin' on the highways that we built
Maybe they'll have a better understanding
- John Mellancamp
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