Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I just encountered a list of "42 songs That Every American Should Know," as declared by those at something called the Music Educators National Conference.

Egad! Who are these "music educators"? I hope none are teaching in Pennsylvania. I guarantee that many of these songs are completely unfamiliar to 95% of Americans, and likely to remain so.

Proving my point, let me ask you and your readers, who represent a cross-section of ages and geographic regions, if they are familiar with any of these tunes: "De Colores"; "Dona Nobis Pacem"; "Music Alone Shall Live"; "Over My Head"; "Sakura"; "Chaverim"; and "Simple Gifts;" just to name a few.

To suggest that people outside the confines of any single group would have any interest in that clan's music is a bit absurd. For example, I have no more need to know Italian, Arabic, Mexican, or African songs than they do to know Eddie Cochran's music. Yet these educators say "every American" should know these songs. I say hogwash!

Given the inexplicable absence of any rock and roll songs, my guess is the average age of those educators is nearing triple digits. In fact, the few rock era tunes on the list are ballads or folk songs, such as "Yesterday;" "If I Had a Hammer"; Puff the Magic Dragon"; and "This Land Is Your Land," etc.

As one whose opinions I respect, what's your take on this? Why the rock bias? These educators are out of touch with the music of anyone under the age of 60, and completely out of touch with anyone under 40 (and I'm in that demographic).
—Darwin Foote, Harrisburg, Pa.

DEAR DARWIN: Who am I to dispute Darwin's theory?

Yours was not the only letter in my mailbox regarding these "educators" and their goofy list; however, you encapsulate all the salient points made by the others.

My first reaction was where is "Stardust;" "White Christmas;" "My Blue Heaven;" "The Tennessee Waltz;" "I Will Always Love You"; "Rock Around the Clock"; "If I Can Dream"; "Mack the Knife"; "Johnny B. Goode;" "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"; "Imagine;" "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,'" and countless others?

Based on the seven examples you quote, one might think this to be a list of songs "hardly anyone knows," rather than ones "every American should know." None cited were hits during the 20th century. And I think it's safe to assume that "Over My Head" is not the 1984 single by Toni Basil.

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