Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Seven Songs Per Decade: 1970s (Part 1 of 4.5)

In the spring, I am teaching I brand-new class, on the history of the United States from 1974 - 2014.  I am currently in the process of preparing the course.  One thing I thought I'd do, mostly just for fun, is play a song as the students walk in every day as a processional.  I'm only going to do this on days I lecture (not on discussion days or exam days), so it won't be every day.

But I want to come up with a list of songs which are A), Good, B) Representative, and C) Iconic.  Some songs will be on the list primarily for one of those reasons, but ideally most will be a mix of all three.  In order to get a comparatively even chronological mix, I'm going to try to do 7 songs each from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, plus 3 from the 10s.

And I'm soliciting suggestions!

To give you a sense of the sort of thing I'm thinking about, here is a preliminary, mostly off-the-top-of-my-head list of six songs (leaving one TBD):
  1. Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
  2. Born to Run (or Thunder Road), Bruce Springsteen (1975)
  3. Stayin' Alive, Bee Gees (1977)
  4. Psycho Killer, Talking Heads (1978)
  5. Gotta Serve Somebody, Bob Dylan (1979)
  6. London Calling, The Clash (1979)
  7. ??
At the moment, all six are by white men. I'm not happy about that (it's not true for other decades).  That's one dimension I'd like suggestions on how to fix.

Note that as a general rule, I am limiting every single musician to one song on all five lists.  (I am making an exception for one, and only one, musician, to be revealed later.)  But bear that in mind: if you think someone's best or most representative or most iconic song is from a later decade, don't put them on this list!  Save them for later.

Note that while all suggestions are welcome, I'd prefer complete lists, either just a set of seven, or telling me what you'd add/subtract to my rough draft.

Update, November 15:

This query, cross-posted to facebook, generated a vigorous and (for me) very informative discussion, and far, far, far more suggestions than I could actually use.  After reading what everyone had to say, and painfully cutting it back down to seven, I came up with this revised list:
  1. After the Goldrush by Neil Young (1970)
  2. Search and Destroy, Iggy and the Stooges (1973)
  3. Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)
  4. The Payback, James Brown (1974)
  5. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor (1978)
  6. The Promised Land, Bruce Springsteen (1978)
  7. Rapper's Delight, Sugar Hill Gang (1979)
 ...with the idea that the Talking Heads will be on the 80s list instead.

So now I'm soliciting suggestions, comments and revisions on this second draft list.  I'd love to hear what you think — but please, only suggest an addition if you also suggest which it should replace.  Also, remember that we are going for a representative list of iconic songs; quality is important, but only within that larger constraint.

Myself, I am liking the list pretty well.  The one I am most tempted to cut is "After the Goldrush", not as any reflection on the song itself, but since the chronology of the course really starts a few years later, in 1973/1974.

Up next: the 1980s. Stay tuned.

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