The Lord works in mysterious ways. Just as the tiresome inanity of the government shutdown/debt ceiling saga was about to take a permanent toll on my psyche, relief came from an unexpected source. A parking lot attendant saw fit to change the channel on my Sirius XM radio from CNBC, where it had been for years, to the Fifties music channel, which I had forgotten even existed. I plan to change it back some day.
I graduated from high school in 1960; so, presumably, I am a child of the Fifties. I’ll admit that those old songs ring a bell, but somehow I remember them a bit more sophisticated than they now appear. I pay attention to the words in songs; that’s why I like country music. But there’s no country on channel 5. It’s all light pop and doo wop. Think “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
I first heard those songs in a Carolina blue and white ’55 Ford, then in a black ’57 Chevrolet, which would be considered a classic today, and then in a white ’57 Ford convertible with a black top. I traded the Chevrolet for the Ford because I wanted to go off to college in a convertible and be too cool for school.
College, however, brought an abrupt end to innocent music. Fraternity parties throbbed with “What’d I Say” and “Shout” done by Ray Charles and the Isley Brothers, both released in 1959. I thought those two were just one long, loud song that lasted an entire Saturday night. My fraternity even had Ike and Tina Turner in the flesh doing “Proud Mary,” although, in a hat tip to the past, we also had the retro Coasters a-splishing and a-splashing. (Don’t bother to google “Splish Splash.” You’ll get a water park on Long Island.)
Listening to American Bandstand music on a radio accustomed to CNBC and occasionally NPR Now in the midst of a new normal economy of two percent growth and Three-Stooges fiscal policy makes one wonder if the old soundtrack of the Fifties might help us sort things out. Growth then was twice as fast, and nobody ever heard of fiscal policy. How much could it hurt?
I started listening for just the right Fifties song to infuse new energy and common sense into today’s moribund political economy. It would have to be one that our current crop of politicians can relate to.
My quest led me to a beautiful ballad, about a guy who wanted to thank the guy who wrote the song that made his baby fall in love with him. We can certainly use such powerful come-hither lyrics today to bring us together and help us feel the love. If you are of a certain age, you may remember this Platters classic:
“Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip?”
You can get the ringtone.