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Latter Day Poetry

Cabbages and Kings

By Robert H. Sand

It has become an unfortunate habit in recent years to pass off popular music as a "native art form," while ignoring the lyric beauty and poetic worth of many of the top tunes. To further public appreciation of this art form, the CRIMSON annually undertakes to print messages from some of the more moving lyrics, while taking note of the literary forces and individuals who have influenced the song's content and technique.

Vachel Lindsay, for example, can be heard in the new favorite, "Jim Dandy:"

"Jim Dandy to the rescue

Jim Dandy to the rescue

Jim Dandy to the rescue

Go Jim Dandy, Go Jim Dandy."

The mixed influence of Poe-James-Sade can be heard in "Love Me:"

Treat me like a fool

Treat me mean and cruel,

But love me.

Break my faithful heart

Tear it all apart,

But love me."

The same influence can be heard in a recent release of Frank Sinatra in less subtle phrasing:

"Hug me, squeeze me til I'm red,

Till my eyes bug out my head."

Not only can these lyrics show relationship to authors, but they can be intimately bound to major American writers, placing them in the main stream of our national literature. Walt Whitman has left his spirit in one lyric:

"Choo-choo choo-choo ch-boogie

Woo-woo boogie woogie, choo-choo

Choo-choo ch-boogie."

The technique and wry humor of Robert Frost appear in yet another:

"See that squirrel on the wall

If he had a brain at all

He would be, yes sirree

By you, by you, by you."

Hemingway mingled with James Jones is also in evidence.

"Ev'rytime I kiss you and hold you tight

I'm playing with dynamite,

I know you're dangerous,

But I'm not afraid."

By combining the central theme of man's isolation with Carl Sandburg, "Ain't Got No Home" may have immortalized itself:

"I ain't got a mother,

I ain't got a father,

I ain't got a sister,

Not even a brother,

I'm a lonely frog,

I ain't got a home."

It would be unfair, however, to claim that popular songs are limited to American problems, rather than the universals. The love odes of modern song often recall Shelley at his most exuberant:

"Tra la la, tra la la

You're as sweet as a candy bar

Tra la la, tra la lye,

I'm so happy that I could die."

The same time of imagery and inner turmoil can be heard again in another hit:

"Dear, I believe you won't laugh

When you receive this rose and a Baby Ruth."

Religious and psychological thought are also to be found in modern song:

"Everybodies got troubles, troubles, troubles,

And I got troubles too."

The quest and doom of the intellectual appears:

"I'm beginning to wonder,

And wonder, I worry

I'm beginning to worry

Yes lately, I worry."

While universal thought and national figures exert an influence upon pop songs, some lyrics seem to stand apart from all literature and philosophy, and emerge as a self-contained and self-explanatory art form:

Darling don't forbid me

To talk sweet talk

Let-a me fill your little heart with fire

'Cause it's cold...."

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