Songs of a City

Cities have songs and musical genres that match each place: sometimes seasonally, sometimes geographically.

When I lived in LA, a friend of mine asked me to write for a documentary he was doing about famed Brazilian musician Laurindo Almeida. We interviewed him weeks before he died and the documentary turned into a tribute concert. The man was a poet and reminisced about how diving with sea turtles in his native Rio painted his dreams and influenced his musical style. He then moved to LA where he had lived for many years, composing for films like the Godfather.

He told me just before his death, what painted his recent dreams in LA was the freeways, and he wanted to do some kind of musical piece that spoke to that. I guessed he was referring to the cars constantly moving in every direction, reflecting light during the day, and giving off light at night. Maybe the ocean-like sound it all created.

LA does have a vibe that you can feel from the road. If LA were a song, it could be a cool jazz samba, like Laurindo Almeida was known for, or it could be a folky tale about driving 500 miles today and never leaving LA, like in the Michelle Shocked song “Come a Long Way.” I’d say depending on where you are in LA, a different song could relate: maybe the Go Go’s “We Got the Beat” for Santa Monica on a clear sunny day; some Jimmy Buffet for Marina del Rey; Joni Mitchell, CSN or Counting Crows for Laurel Canyon…

If Atlanta, where I now live, were a song it might be a rap or hip hop number by Ludacris or Usher. It could be any number of R.E.M. songs, or maybe an older southern rock number like “Champagne Jam” by the appropriately named Atlanta Rhythm Section. This song talks about partying with some “high class booze” and makes me think of the scrappy upbringing of this always growing metropolis with a chip on its shoulder.

What would your city songs be?

Music Doodle

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5 thoughts on “Songs of a City

  1. Atlanta Rhythm Section: the Steely Dan of Southern Rock. I’ve never been to Atlanta, but Champagne Jam sounded good anywhere.

    My adolescence and much of my adult life was spent in Denver. While the Eagles were the consummate LA band, Take It Easy, and much of their early Country Rock was a great fit for the vibe of early ’70s Denver. Likewise for Poco, which had members from Colorado. Fireball had its roots in Boulder and, in spite of their Pop success, they had complex harmonies and came across like Crosby Stills & Nash, The Next Generation. Dan Fogleberg picked up the baton in the late ’70s and saw us through a few more years. The Synth/Pop of the ’80s never fit the Denver/Front-Range vibe, IMHO, and I can’t really think of much since Fogleberg that struck me as Denver music.

    Almeida was fantastic and no one has to ask me twice to listen to Bossa Novas or Sambas. Jobim was another great, but I never thought of that music in terms of geography. When Girl From Ipanema charted, I was in grade school and the sound brings me back to a simpler, much less hectic time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • KBCO was my favorite station back in college at DU. It was like a good friend- always reliable. Marc Cohn was on there when Walking in Memphis was so popular and he thanked them for playing his other songs too.

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  2. The “BCO” in KBCO stands for Boulder County. They have been a force in the Denver radio market for a long, long time.

    It’s funny what you take for granted at the time and then look back upon in amazement. In Denver we had KBCO, KADX (the best jazz station I ever heard) and KIMN and KTLK, slugging it out like champs in the Top 40 market. There was also a soft rock station with the call sign KJAE, which was an unending source of interesting material. To me, this was just normal; I could tune in a great FM station at home and in the car I had a very good choice of AM stations. Only recently did I learn that KIMN, the Top 40 station, was considered one of the best of the genre, nationwide.

    As long as we’re on the subject of music and places, I’ll mention KTWN, in Minneapolis/St. Paul. They had a playlist that was unique and always entertaining. I can’t tell you how many great songs I was Introduced to by that station. Some antenna issues, coverage and interference problems, etc. slowed them down, but the memories are of the greatest station in memory. Sadly, these days they are just another iHeart Radio outlet playing the same oldies as dozens of other iHeart Radio outlets. If there was ever a radio station with a soul, it was KTWN (K-Twin). I’ve never heard an iHeart Radio outlet that had a soul.

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      • I’ll have to do that. There are still a few decent stations out there. KQRS in Minneapolis was pretty decent last time I checked. There’s a Classic Rock station in Tucson that has a great playlist, but the ratio of commercials to music is abysmal. I have a Sirius XM radio in the car and that can be pretty good.

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