Tagged: Playlist

Crowdsourced Playlist: Songs Where the Writer Just Flagrantly Made Up a Word and Put It Right Out There (SWTWJFMUAWAPIROT)

MaryPoppinsSilenced

Each week, I host a “crowdsourced playlist.” I give the theme (and a few examples) and the crowd throws in their suggestions. Check out the progress on this week’s playlist below, or head over to Facebook to follow me and contribute.

Disney’s release of Mary Poppins was quickly followed by a copyright-infringement suit.

13 years before the film was released, Gloria Parker and Barney Young wrote a song titled ‘Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus,’ which Alan Holmes recorded. The songwriters understandably saw a strong similarity in one of the most popular songs in ‘Poppins.’ (The Parker/Young/Holmes song is not on Spotify, but you can hear it on YouTube)

“I find that ‘the word’ was known to and used by members of the public for many years prior to 1951, the date when plaintiffs allegedly published their song.”

-Judge Feinberg
Life Music, Inc. v. Broadcast Music


A year after Mary Poppins hit theaters, Parker and Young filed suit against Disney, alleging copyright-infringement of their song. The Sherman brothers, who wrote the music for the movie, stated they had invented the word when they were children, going so far as to provide an origin story for it. Disney ignored that history though, and appropriately for a lawsuit centered on a word made (nearly) out of whole cloth, Disney’s defense seemed to be freshly invented: “‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ is widely used slang,” they claimed.

In a decision that still leaves me incredulous, the judge found for Disney.

A few months later after the judge’s decision, a earlier use of the word was found in a Syracuse student newspaper article from 1931. Helen Herman wrote:

“Supercaliflawjalisticexpialadoshus” is the word to which I refer. I’ll admit it’s rather long and tiring before one reaches its conclusion, but once you arrive at the end, you have a feeling that you have said in one word what it would ordinarily take four paragraphs to explain.

Did the Sherman brothers make it up? Did Parker and Young hear or read the word and forget, imagining they had invented it? Has this 14-syllable word been spontaneously invented two or more times? We’ll likely never know.

Back in October, the theme was playlist-of-playlists, with several people coming up with great ideas. One of them was my dear friend Carrie Weiner Campbell, who suggested a playlist of songs with made up words. It seems like a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious idea, so let’s do it.

There was no good place to link to Ben Zimmer’s post about this on Visual Thesaurus, but it’s worth a read if you’d like to learn more about the history of the copyright claims. I first read the core details of this story years ago on Music You (Probably) Won’t Hear Anywhere Else, but the post seems to have since been removed.

Crowdsourced Playlist: Outlaws

Each week, I host a “crowdsourced playlist.” I give the theme (and a few examples) and the crowd throws in their suggestions. Check out the progress on this week’s playlist below, or head over to Facebook to follow me and contribute.

In 1959, a 21-year-old Waylon Jennings was booked for a late-night flight from Clear Lake, IA to Fargo, ND with other members of the band he was playing with at the time.

J.P. Richardson—a.k.a., The Big Bopper—was also traveling making the trip from Clear Lake to Fargo, but with no open seats on the plane, he was to take a bus. Today that trip takes about 5.5 hours, but none of the sections of I-94 or I-35 connecting the two cities had been built in 1959 and the bus trip would likely have taken much longer. Jennings took pity on Richardson, who was sick with a cold, and gave up his seat on the plane, joking “I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”

The plane crashed, killing Richardson, as well as Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride, With sword and pistol by my side. Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade. Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade. -The Highwaymen

Several years later, Jennings shared an apartment with Johnny Cash, the two roommates having a heavy addiction to amphetamines in common. Both musicians’ careers were doing well around this time, but Jennings was becoming frustrated with the artistic control exerted by the Nashville producers.

In 1972, Jennings released the album ‘Ladies Love Outlaws.’ Subsequently, he renegotiated his recording contract to permit greater creative freedom and released ‘Lonesome, On’ry and Mean,’ the “quintessential” outlaw record (AllMusic.com).

It’s fun to wonder what The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly might have gone on to do had they lived, but it’s amazing to think that if Jennings had boarded that plane, we might never have had Outlaw Country or many of the other outlaw and gangster songs that followed. Others, like Cash, had been “bad boys,” but none had made the “outlaw” such a part of their performative identity.

Crowdsourced Playlist: Sexes, Battle of the: Songs of Adversaries and Allies

Each week, I host a “crowdsourced playlist.” I give the theme (and a few examples) and the crowd throws in their suggestions. Check out the progress on this week’s playlist below, or head over to Facebook to follow me and contribute.

It’s 1933 and Heddy Lamarr is 18 and appearing in a film called ‘Ecstasy.’ The film is remembered most for Heddy’s facial expression during an orgasm, an expression that was achieved by the film’s director poking her buttocks with a safety pin off camera.

It’s 1941 or ’42 and World War II is happening. Heddy is hanging out with an avant garde composer, George Antheil. Discussion of how to automate control of music instruments gives way to how to prevent the jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes. Using a piano role to randomly change frequencies, the two successfully solved the problem and were granted a patent. Heddy wanted to join the National Inventors Council after this important development, but was told she could be more helpful by selling war bonds. Today, you use the technology with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and your cell phone.

So, this week’s crowdsourced playlist theme is Sexes, Battle of the: Songs of Adversaries and Allies.

Crowdsourced Playlist: Loss (Actual or Almost)

Each week, I host a “crowdsourced playlist.” I give the theme (and three examples) and the crowd throws in their suggestions. Check out the progress on this week’s playlist below, or head over to Facebook to follow me and contribute.

In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I’ve been seeing comments about how strong people survive addiction and it kills the weak.

Several years ago, I was working at a gritty coffee shop directly across the street from Tompkins Sq. I was also volunteering at a drop-in center for young homeless people, where one of the services was training on how to recognize a heroin overdose and administer an opiate-blocker, Narcan.

The drop-in center was particularly quiet one day, and the coffee shop where I worked had a long history of heroin ODs, so I took the training and got my Narcan kit.

A couple of weeks later, I was sitting in Tompkins Sq. when I saw a street kid who was clearly not doing well. I asked his friends if he needed Narcan and they said if I had some that would be great. By the time I gave it to him, he had stopped breathing and his lips were blue. I injected him with two doses, which was enough to get him snoring. In most cases, two doses would have woken him up, but he was that far gone. The paramedics showed up and I slipped away. I talked to another street kid a couple of days later and asked if he knew “Horse,” the kid I gave the Narcan to, and he said he did and Horse was fine.

A couple of weeks later, I was working and someone came in, used the restroom, and went into an OD from the drugs he had apparently injected right before he came in. It took me about 10 minutes to notice he had been in the restroom for a long time, and by the time I knocked on the restroom door and then got it open, he was gone. Paramedics worked on him for 20 minutes and got a heartbeat back, but he never regained consciousness and he was taken off life support 11 days later.

Here’s the thing: if I hadn’t be volunteering at the drop-in center; if there hadn’t been a slow day at the center; if I had decided to use that time to talk to other staff instead of getting a training; if I hadn’t happened to carry the Narcan with me; if I hadn’t sat in a particular spot in the park; if I had just ignored the situation with the kids for a few more minutes; if the heroin he had taken had been just a little stronger; if if if, Horse would have died.

If the coffee shop hadn’t been so busy a couple of weeks later; if I had checked on that guy a few minutes earlier; if I had injected him with Narcan faster, the other guy might have lived.

I don’t know what ever became of Horse. He might be dead now; he might be living in a starter house in Newark where he and his wife are raising their first child. The point is, he never would have had the chance to survive if not for a huge set of factors, many of them impossible to predict and none within his control. That guy in the restroom? Maybe he would have gone sober the next day if he could have just lived one more day.

We never know who might have gone to their first NA meeting tomorrow if they hadn’t ODed today; we never know who would have ODed tomorrow if they hadn’t checked into rehab today. The difference between surviving addiction and not, between being lost and being saved, is often just a matter of timing and luck (followed by lots and lots of hard work).

All of which is to say, this week’s playlist theme: Loss (actual or almost)

Crowdsourced Playlist: Fuck.

Each week, I host a “crowdsourced playlist.” I give the theme (and three examples) and the crowd throws in their suggestions. Check out the progress on this week’s playlist below, or head over to Facebook to follow me and contribute.

When Stephen Sondheim was hired to write the music for West Side Story, he was told he could drop an F-bomb at the end of “Gee, Officer Krupke.” The word had never been used in a Broadway show and the 25-year-old lyricist was excited to break that barrier.

Unfortunately, as the original production progressed, CBS Records, which had the contract for the cast recording, said they could not sell the album if it the word “fuck” was in the lyrics, since shipping it across state lines would violate obscenity laws.

Ultimately, Sondheim was forced to use the lyric “Gee, Office Krupke, Krup you” instead of his original lyric. In a show with many lyrics Sondheim has always been unhappy with, he thinks this change ended up making a more interesting lyric.

[source: Finishing the Hat, Vol. 1]

Which brings us to this week’s crowdsourced playlist theme: “Fuck.”