Popular Music Perspectives: Ideas, Themes, and Patterns in Contemporary Lyrics

By B. Lee Cooper | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight

Food and Drink

(with William L. Schurk)

America's food industry has attracted the attention of authors for decades. Even the use of background muzak in dining establishments has been investigated by popular culture researchers. It seems somewhat strange, therefore, that lyrical commentaries about culinary activities have received so little scholarly attention. Why have the recorded observations about cooking, eating, and socializing been overlooked? This study explores the imagery of America's eating and drinking through the lyrics of popular songs.

Food and drink are central factors in modern lyrics. In many cases, though, it is difficult to perceive any rationale for references to saltwater taffy, shortnin' bread, pumpkin pie, coconuts, mashed potatoes, and cherry wine in popular songs. The necessity of eating, combined with the plethora of available foods and liquid refreshments, seems to make musical commentaries about culinary activities random and undirected. Yet after careful examination, several distinct patterns of food-related observations become apparent. Some identifications are strictly serendipitous in regard to individual food items; others are quite specific for either logical or symbolic reasons; and still others utilize the social setting of dining as a means of communicating varying personal feelings.

This study identifies more than 200 food-related recordings and places them in five distinct categories. Although some of the songs feature overlapping ideas, and a few of the titles are used in two or more categories, the following descriptive system seems reasonable, functional, and inclusive. The specific categories represented are: (a) focal point, (b) personal desire, (c) social setting, (d) symbol or image, and (e) nonsense use. The definition for each of these areas is provided below, along with tables of songs which illustrate each category.


A. Focal Point

Every song has a title. This word or phrase becomes the formal identification tag for a distinct melody. For most musical compositions, the title is drawn directly from the lyrical content of the song. However, many tunes are strictly instrumental. In these cases the composer, the arranger, the performer, or someone else involved in the recording session arbitrarily assigns a title to the composition. Not infrequently, food or drink names are selected for song titles. Without rational explanation, Booker T and The M.G.'s cooked up "Green Onions," Al Hirt served "Java," Ray Charles belted down "One Mint Julep," and Herb Alpert

-94-

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Popular Music Perspectives: Ideas, Themes, and Patterns in Contemporary Lyrics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Popular Music Perspectives - Ideas, Themes, and Patterns in Contemporary Lyrics *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments 1
  • Introduction 4
  • Ideas *
  • Chapter One - Education (i) 9
  • Chapter Two - Railroads 25
  • Chapter Three - Rebels and Outsiders 37
  • Chapter Four - Education (ii) 48
  • Themes *
  • Chapter Five - Automobiles 59
  • Chapter Six - Christmas 68
  • Chapter Seven - Death 82
  • Chapter Eight - Food and Drink 94
  • Chapter Nine - Telephones 111
  • Patterns *
  • Chapter Ten - Answer Songs and Sequel Recordings 121
  • Chapter Eleven - Cover Records and Song Revivals 140
  • Chapter Twelve - Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales 155
  • Chapter Thirteen - Social Trends and Audio Chronology 172
  • Selected Bibliography 193
  • Index 210
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