In times of adversity (i.e., now), Americans have always turned to popular songs for comfort, encouragement and moral support.
So what do you say we rip a recovery playlist to see us through this financial fire walk?
When stressed, something in our DNA responds well to lyrics that acknowledge our troubles with humor and optimism, especially when they’re borne on an I-can’t-get-this-out-of-my-head melody that everyone can hum — or better yet, whistle.
1) “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. Aside from being ridiculously contagious and whistle-able, McFerrin’s ear worm reminds us: “In every life we have some trouble/ When you worry you make it double.” So don’t worry. And be happy.
Arguably, we might not even be sitting here blubbering in our Bellinis were it not for America’s first anthem, “Yankee Doodle.”
The British song, which marginalized our pre-colonial forefathers as “doodles,” fools, was on the furry lips of the Redcoats when they arrived to stop us from partying like it was 1775. Unimpressed, our fine, young rebels took up the tune to reverse-mock the British and ultimately, drove them back to their island, where they would later invent copyright infringement.
2) “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall. Catchy, upbeat “Britgirl” rock that I’m pretty sure recounts Ms. Tunstall’s career epiphany watching The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde on stage. If not, it’s still a timely reminder that not all “aha!” moments are bad ones.
The Great Depression spawned two grin-and-bear-it anthems — “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” reminded us to “live and laugh at it all” while “We’re In The Money” offered this wishful-thinking pep talk: “We’re in the money, come on, my honey/ Let’s lend it, spend it, send it rolling along!”
Oh, that we could.
3) “Wondering Where the Lions Are” by Bruce Cockburn. Granted, in the years since Cockburn slipped this one over the Canadian border, we now know precisely where the lions are. Or were. It’s infectious refrain still beats Xanax: “Sun’s up, uh huh, looks OK/ the world survives into another day/ and I’m thinking about eternity/ some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.”
We similarly whistle our way through war times. The Civil War had “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” World War I spawned “Over There” and WWII inspired a ton of Big Band anthems, including “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “As Time Goes By.”
4) “The Heart of Life” by John Mayer. The multitalented Mr. Mayer must have pulled this one from an astral area code. It’s a twofer, really: It reminds us that, as Dr. King said, “the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice,” then adds, “fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.” But I reckon we know that now.
The Vietnam War was the subtext for much of the music of the ’60s, from “The Ballad of the Green Beret” to my personal favorite, “Fortunate Son.” A pal of mine says he survived his tour of duty by cranking “White Bird” up to 11.
5) “Soak Up The Sun” by Sheryl Crow. In the interest of the green movement, which is looking more and more like the best available branch to lift us out of this economic tar pit, we’ll recycle this beach party that Crow wrote to shake off the 9/11 heebie-jeebies.
We’ve drifted away from social anthems in recent decades, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at our presidential campaigns, which now come with their own soundtracks.
You can probably credit former Sax Man in Chief Bill Clinton for setting that table with Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” in 1992. But props to H. Ross Perot for having a sense of humor by opening to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”
George W. Bush followed in 2000 with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” against which Al Gore had no chance with that incredibly lame Bachman-Turner Overdrive overkill, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.”
In my humble opinion, Stevie Wonder deserves a Cabinet position for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” which will be forever linked with the ascendancy of President Obama.
John McCain didn’t exactly bring his musical A-game with ABBA’s “Take a Chance On Me.” I mean, ABBA? ABBA never got America through anything worse than a disco hangover.
6) “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls. Of course, if none of the panaceas currently being launched manage to stave off the Big D, we might be facing a 1929 scenario in which Wall Street’s former masters of the universe start falling from the skies.
Only this time, yeah — we’ve got a song for that.
Veteran Bankrate contributing editor Jay MacDonald lives in Austin, Texas. If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Bank Shots.