Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Everyone Can Sing This!

I was listening to a bit of Super Bowl hype on the radio last week. Apparently, a pair of lower-caste celebrities went to the press day event and tried to get a bunch of football players to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". None did. But I was wondering how many of the players would actually know the words. First, it's a baseball song. Second, how many people actually know more than the first twelve words to the song?

It started me thinking. What songs could you ask a group of non-musicians to sing, with a reasonably good chance that everyone would know the words to an entire verse? I can't think of many. The only song I think everyone knows the words to is "Happy Birthday"; there are only five different words, plus a floating proper noun, in the entire song. Even most Christmas carols are pretty shaky after the first line or two. I'd guess that half the population could make it through the first verse of most Christmas songs, and maybe ten percent could make it though two verses. I tried making a list of songs that are so embedded in popular culture that most people could probably sing a verse or two, and I couldn't come up with much. Some Beach Boys, a little Aretha, some classic funk and soul, maybe a little John Denver. And some truly terrifying stuff: I bet everyone knows a few verses of Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow.

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