Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dusting off an old LP

You wouldn't call my parents music fanatics, but there was always a turntable in the house and LP records to be played. They exposed their children to songs and music we might never have discovered, much less embraced, without their influence.

I remember a record titled "Songs That Brought Sunshine into the Depression'' that received some serious play when I was a kid. What brought back the memory was a movie showing recently on IFC. It was the 1992 flick "American Heart'' with Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong (who that year became a 15-year-old star after being cast as John Connor in "Terminator 2'').

"American Heart'' has a nice soundtrack that's heavy on Tom Waits' songs, including "Jersey Girl'', but the tune that got my attention was performed by Bridges, who was playing a tiny guitar I mistook for a uke until I noticed it had six strings. He did a stripped down version of "Sunny Side of the Street'' and immediately I was transported back to Gene and Mavis Smith's house on Blair Street circa 1960.

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street

Strummer alert: Here's a link to some simple guitar chords for the song, with lyrics. It's guaranteed to break you out of any depressing set you may have strummed yourself into: (Just overlook the incorrect song title.)

With the mess we're in today, it might not be a bad idea to bring back some of those memorable Depression-era chestnuts. No doubt the music of that time helped folks cope with the difficulties of the day. Playing off the old game of Records to Take on a Deserted Island, I submit a short list of Old Songs to Kick the New Depression:

1. All of Me (Gerald Marks/Seymour Simons)
2. Pennies From Heaven (Arthur Johnson/Johnny Burke)
3. Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee (Irving Berlin)
4. We're In the Money (Al Dubin/Harry Warren)
5. Brother Can You Spare a Dime (Yip Harburg/Jay Gorney)

And I'd have to add "Sunny Side of the Street'' from that long-ago LP, which provided audible lessons and insights on the Great Depression that couldn't be uncovered reading history books.

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