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Archive for the ‘Response Songs’ Category

A few years ago, I was reminded of just how out of touch I’ve become. My friend and I were on our way to a vacation house in the Outer Banks, and after a long drive, our conversation had wound down from making approving comments about our rented Chrysler minivan – so much passenger room! so low to the ground! – to discussing the latest trends in hip hop. My friend told me all about the St. Louis scene, citing the song “Hot In Herre”, by Nelly, as evidence of the unique St. Louis patois. I felt really clued in until she told me, slightly sheepishly, that she had read all about it in the New Yorker.

I returned the favor last year. After reading a favorable review of Beyonce’s “To The Left” in the New York Times, I downloaded a copy and sent it to her. We now know all of the words.

I was reminded again of my own cluelessness when I read about a new dance craze, the “Aunt Jackie”, in Slate. Somehow I’ve missed out on a trend that is “rapidly moving toward mainstream ubiquity – come December, drunken middle managers will be doing the “Aunt Jackie” at corporate Christmas parties.” Thanks to Slate, that drunken middle manager might be me!

It had already been a bad week. A few days earlier, after ordering a glass of white wine, I had been asked, “Are you 21?” Feeling flattered, and twirling my hair, I replied, “Gee, thanks – I’m gonna be 31 in a couple of weeks!” The barista could have left it at that, leaving my pride intact. Instead he told me that he had been making a joke.

And so, reading Slate, and feeling especially old, I came across something that cheered me considerably. There was a passing reference to the Roxanne Wars, linking to its Wikipedia entry. That’s right, if you are too young, or too old, to remember the Roxanne Wars, you can read a potentially unreliable account of it on Wikipedia! Though the Roxanne Wars might bring to mind great sacrifice, post-traumatic stress disorder, and peace accords, it really just refers to the song “Roxanne Roxanne”, by UTFO, and the dozens of songs that were released in response to it. Songs like “Roxanne’s Revenge” and “Do the Roxanne”, but mostly songs that hinted at Roxanne’s rich social network: “Roxanne’s Doctor – The Real Man” and “The Parents of Roxanne” and “Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)”.

I don’t remember the Roxanne Wars so much as I remember the song “Roxanne, Roxanne”, and even then, I just remember the chorus: “I wanna be your man!” But I read the Wikipedia entry with particular interest; I had already been compiling a list of what I had termed “response songs”: songs that were written in answer to popular songs. I got the idea after finding out that Carla Thomas had recorded an answer to Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” called “I’ll Bring It On Home To You”. Her sentiment matched mine exactly; Sam Cooke was a babe.

Admittedly, my list of response songs was short; there were only six entries. But I did have a favorite: Sporty Thievz’s “No Pigeons”, about women who act fake, and a response to TLC’s “No Scrubs”. The song itself has lines like, “you ain’t worth the McDonalds,” plus I had once watched an entire episode of Ricki Lake devoted to the topic of pigeons.

I have friends who have compiled their own music-related lists, and, without batting an eyelash, they can rattle off things like bands that are comprised of married couples and songs that have Kentucky in the title. Perusing Wikipedia I saw how shameful my own list was. Linking from the Roxanne Wars, there was a whole page of response songs. Though I was sad that my idea for such a list was hardly original, I was relieved to see that the burden to compile one no longer rested on my shoulders alone. Instead, I am now free to explore Wikipedia, finding questionably accurate answers to questions like “is mango really in the poison ivy family?” and “what was Napolean’s deal anyway?” I can read Oscar Levant quips and find the connection between the Bee Gees and the Welsh mining disaster in Aberfan. I might even have more time now to catch up on the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Slate.

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