Monday, January 09, 2012

Daddy, Where Do Hit Songs Come From?

1972. Huge hit for the Staples Singers:

1969. Lunch money for the Harry J. All Stars:

Gotta love a guy like Harry Johnson. African, Sicilian, and Scottish descent. Shaka Prima Braveheart.

People love to seize on stuff like this, and not just in music. So and so didn't really invent such and such.

The machinery of popularity, like less trivial pursuits, is not about fairness, or pedigree, or seniority. It doesn't matter that Henry Ford didn't invent the auto, or the assembly line. It doesn't matter that Bill Gates didn't do much of his own source code. It doesn't matter that the Staple Singers used Harry J's riff for their hit. Your job, if you're going to enter the big arenas and triumph, is to put the thing that everyone needs or wants in front of everyone at the right time and place.

Visionaries deserve credit. I hope I just gave Harry J. some. But practical syncretists are just as important. They generally don't require any extra credit, as they are sitting on piles of money and hate to reach down to receive their praise.

1 comment:

drdave said...

Driving on vacation with my 17 year old daughter (who always demanded control of the car radio before she had her own MP3 player) I pointed out that much of her popular music was based on riffs from some of my favorite music in the 60's and 70's. At first she didn't believe me, but when I started singing old lyrics on top of her new music, she was astounded. Nothing new in the world, girl, nothing new at all.