Wednesday, June 01, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 1: Your Favorite Song

For the month of June, I'm participating in a meme called the 30 Day Song Challenge. I'll be posting my songs each day to my Facebook profile and Twitter feed, but I thought I'd also post them here on the blog where I have a little more room to explain the why's and wherefore's of my selections.

Day 1 is the hardest day of the whole list, as it calls for me to name my "favorite song." Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I shouted out "This is my FAVORITE SONG!" at a bar or during a concert or in the car or near a jukebox. The truth is, I have at least a hundred favorite songs, all of them sub-category or situation or site specific. Nevertheless, I'm going to play this challenge by the rules and pick only one favorite song for today. I thought long and hard about it, and in the end I decided to just go with the song that I probably most often call my "favorite song." That narrowed it down to about three artists: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones. And in the end, the Stones won out. This is a song that I play almost every time that I'm near a jukebox, which is a good enough criterion I think for judging one's favorite song.

So, here it is. The Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" from the 1978 album Some Girls:



Why I do I love this song? Well, first, it's the Stones! That lazy, dirty, gritty guitar lick with which Keith Richards begins "Beast of Burden" is probably one of the most recognizable in all of pop music. And Charlie Watts stays just enough behind the beat to give the whole thing a kind of loping, not-in-too-much-of-a-hurry, cool sound that I like to call the "hangover groove." Then, of course, there's Mick... whose back is broad, who has walked for miles, whose feet are hurting, who you can put out on the street (with no shoes on his feet) and who can still shrug off all your sickness. But he'll NEVER be your beast of burden...

Or will he? It's such a uniquely, powerfully broken sentiment that drives this song, even in spite of its garden-variety mundaneness. You've all had someone who treated you like a beast of burden, who weighed you down and rode you hard, who put you out and wore you down... AND YET who you still find yourself going back to, in spite of all your pain and exhaustion and sickness, for just a little more love and tenderness. Everything about Mick's plea in "Beast of Burden" involves irresolvable emotional conflict. He's putting his foot down AND he's asking for more. He's documenting his strengths AND he's displaying his vulnerabilities. He's bragging AND he's begging. One one level, all he wants is to get it on again... no, correction, to "make love" again. But on another level, he can't help himself but to ask softly, even sweetly, all of the "why?" questions to which he both does and doesn't want answers. A'int I hard enough? A'int I rough enough? Ain't I rich enough? In love enough?

Baby, pleeeeaaaassse.

Another reason I really love this song is because I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't also love this song. It's one of those tunes that makes everyone smile, gets everyone moving and grooving, and to which almost everyone knows enough of the words to sing along. What's more, in a non-scientific survey, I've noticed that most people can and do dance to this song. I mean, even people who have no sense of rhythm at all and can't even find the beat to "Devil With the Blue Dress On" somehow still manage to get themselves coordinated enough to move along to "Beast of Burden." It's all about community, man.

There's a whole world of country, rhythm & blues, jazz, folk and pop songs that basically boil down to the message: "Don't treat me like a dog. Love me (or make love to me) instead." This song is one of the best of those. And, for what it's worth, if more people heeded that advice, we would all be a lot better off.

(For the duration of this challenge, the comments section is wide open. What's your favorite song?)

1 comment:

Emma B. said...

I am totally, utterly convinced by everything you've written here - brilliant, passionate, and moving. What a great defense of a hard decision, and a fine celebration of a favorite song! Then I listen to the song and ARGH I confess I am left cold! Sorries!!!

As for my own favorite; I'm afraid I cannot do the work of sifting, thinking, judging, and deciding until I maybe take the plunge to do my own 30 day song challenge. SO HARD! Good luck with it all. :)