Jon Bon Jovi – The Moon Represents My Heart

Well, apparently ABBA sang English phonetically, so why not Jon Bon Jovi today?

The song goes back to the 1970s, and is best known as being performed by Teresa Teng. Her ballads have been cited as helping spread pop music in Communist China, an art form otherwise widely suppressed.

Jovi’s band is headed to China in the Fall of 2015, so maybe there is some commercial calculation going on here. But the calories burned just to sing okay in Mandarin… might that indicate some sincerity to reach not just into the wallets, but out to the hearts, of a lot of Chinese people?

Cross-cultural sensitivity is a challenging field. One can offend trying to speak a foreign tongue, however well-intentioned. A minor controversy for Jovi is that Teng is Taiwanese, and many feel this song is, too. Yet, China doesn’t recognize an independent Taiwan (see A-Mei).

Still, it is just a love song!

54-40 – I Go Blind

54-40 is a well-known Canadian band that blends alternative and folk influences. Like many Canadian outfits experience, finding success in the larger American market has been challenging.

Their 1986 song was covered, near note-for-note, by Hootie And The Blowfish, 14 year later:

The American band had a hit with it. The song made the Friends TV show soundtrack, and is on one of their great hits compilations. Does 54-40 feel cheated? Their song could have been the hit, and breakthrough they desired.

The band took their name from this very problem.

“54-40 or Fight,” refers to 19th century expansionist tendencies or plans of the USA, into Canada. The numbers relate to territory between Oregon, and up to Russia’s Alaska. In between, of course, this would be what would become Canada. Americans appeared to want the land and might go to war for it.

U.S. Presidential candidate James Polk campaigned on winning all this territory, in 1844. His slogan: 54-40 or fight.” Polk won, but diplomacy and compromise created the present boundaries.

Likewise, 54-40, the band, no doubt still benefits from the royalties of Hootie And The Blowfish singing their song.

Jim Nabors – Back Home Again In Indiana

Jim Nabors is best known as a singer, and as doofus mechanic, Gomer Pyle, from the Andy Griffith Show, on TV. He sang this song, almost 100 years old now, each year at the pre-race ceremonies for the Indy 500 auto race.

The song is about a wanderer missing his home, the “Hoosier state” of Indiana.

Countries, states, towns and regions often have official songs. These can be national anthems, and official state or town songs. By “official,” that typically means the tune was chosen democratically, like ratified by a legislature.

Citizens still might more informally and conventionally, choose unofficial works of music to represent them. “Back Home In Indiana” is an example of this. The official state song of Indiana is “On The Banks of the Wabash, Far Away.”

Official or not, these songs in general tend to be patriotic. They may touch on the history, traditions, values and goals of a political community. Singing them may build and maintain a connection people have to where they live.

Bob Miller – The Rich And The Poor Man

Song publisher Bob Miller sang this song of his around 1928. It casts a stark divide between socioeconomic classes. The rich are better off, have an easier life and it will continue to be this way. Another way of stating this view is that, structurally, the world is fixed or rigged, to benefit some, even at the expense of others. This explanation can go so far as to mean that there is little or nothing the oppressed class can do to improve their lot.

Not much can be found on Bob Miller, but he is touching on Marxism. He was writing before the Great Depression, and the emergence of public social programs and services as part of the welfare state. These government activities aimed to help those less fortunate.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Rebels

Struggling to satisfactorily record this song back in 1985, Petty apparently hurt his hand, punching a wall.

The song’s narrator calls himself a rebel, born in Dixie.

By the dictionary, a rebel is a person who stands up for what they believe in, even if most others aren’t on the same page. Politically, a rebel could be a revolutionary or even a terrorist.

It is a debate whether citizens should have the right to rebel against their governments. Constitutions may entrench this, with freedoms of expression, speech and assembly (gathering, meeting). This typically means resistance using legal and conventional means. But violence can come from rebels.

And Petty is using the American Revolutionary War of the 18th century as a metaphor. This was the armed battles between Great Britain and the American colonies. These colonists – the rebels – resented British imposition of taxes.

More from Petty: American Girl

Fanny – Ain’t That Peculiar

It’s said Fanny were the first all girl group to put out a record on a major label, but perhaps this ignores Motown (this song is a Marvin Gaye/Smokey Robinson cover)? This isn’t a racist conceit with two members of Fanny born in the Philippines.

So how about the band gets the kudos because they rocked to their own tunes that they also performed.

In 1970s larger society, women were becoming less deferential and advocating for equal treatment and respect. Fanny is said to have been a feminist beacon, at least for for rock music. They faced obstacles, even being prohibited from playing at a UK concert once for being too sexy!

Coon Creek Girls – Banjo Pickin’ Girls

It’s toe-tapping time!

The Coon Creek Girls beat Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office. In 1939, this all-girl, early country music outfit gigged at the White House. There, they entertained King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Politics can be divisive, and the string band players who had success in a male industry, went separate ways by the end of the year.