Accentuate the positive

“A wop bop a loo mop, alop bom bom…”

Popular music, and rock music in particular, has a reputation for producing lyrics that are, shall we say, pretty inconsequential.

They’ve been mindless, silly, cutesy, or just plain fun:

“Be-bop-a-lula, she’s my baby…”  1955 

“She loves you, yeah yeah yeah…”  1963

“Na-na, na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye…” 1969  

“Play that funky music, white boy…” 1976

“Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-my Sharona…” 1979

Or, on the other hand, they’ve been negative, angry, dark and disturbing:

“I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man…” 1965 

“Rape!  Murder!  It’s just a shot away…” 1969

“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done…” 1972

“The lunatic is in my head…” 1973

“Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you…” 1983

At the same time, some of our more savvy, literate lyricists in the genre were writing songs with deeper meaning — songs about the angst of relationships, songs that mourn death, songs that urge us to care for our environment.  Perhaps most important are the songs that inspire us, teach us, give us shining examples of how life can be lived in a positive and giving way.

It’s not too much to ask, is it?   Can’t we have compelling music that also allows us to absorb philosophical life lessons as we come of age, or we age, or become aged?

Of course we can.  It’s been going on since long before rock and roll’s debut.  Take, for example, the 1944 Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer classic “Accentuate the Positive.”  The “Wizard of Oz” composer and “Moon River” lyricist combined forces to write an Oscar-nominated piece for the 1944 film “Here Come the Waves” that is a shining testament (#2 on the pop charts) to the welcome belief that thinking positively will affect the outcome of your life:  “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between, you’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum…” Read More