Most requested songs at gigs are often from the past

Gordon Lightfoot 2009 Arnielee

It doesn’t matter if you’re a performer or a music enthusiast, if you’ve taken in live music performances, you will always witness special requests. While it’s true most of my experience is in Americana or country venues, the requests cover all genres. “Time after Time” is a perfect example. 

I asked my daughter Rebecca to learn that song for a couple reasons. I like the song is the first reason. The other reason is its endurability. That ballad has been covered by more artists than I can count.  It was Cindy Lauper’s first big hit. When Rebecca does the song at gigs, the applause says it all. She arranged it in her own way, as she does with every song. Rolling Stone lists the ballad as one of the “100 Greatest Pop Songs” of all time.

Another popular request is “Wagon Wheel.” Bob Dylan was co-writer of the song along with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show. Wikipedia has interesting anecdotal information on this song, and the entry appears fairly well-sourced. I do not care for this song. Audiences love this song. It’s often requested, and Rebecca adapted it to her style which is definitely up-tempo. She has been known to drive guitarists who play with her nuts when it comes to her style, but her most frequent sidekick, Wes Goode, takes such matters all in stride. Goode can basically deal with interpretations of any song.

Miranda Lambert’s “Tin Man” is a definite crowd favorite. It’s a ballad that’s a lyrical poem drawing on the figure of the Tin Man in the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum. I wasn’t a big fan of the novel, but I am a big fan of Lambert’s song and so are millions of other people. At every gig, Rebecca gets a great response to it.

So many of the songs requested by both young and old come from the past. Last night we were in Fernandina Beach (FL) at The Green Turtle Tavern, a staple for live music in that area near the Georgia line. One couple stayed for the whole show, and as Rebecca and Wes were packing up, the man asked if she could do “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. I’d forgotten that song, but it was wildly popular when it came out. The song pays homage to lives lost in a shipwreck during a storm in 1975. I hope she’ll learn it, if for no other reason than to commemorate the men and their families who suffered that tragedy.

You really never know what someone will ask you to play. The best you can do is learn as many songs as possible. Rebecca is good at that, and very good at remembering lyrics, and that has been a great advantage for her in the gig world.

What interests me is that most of the songs people request are from the past. What does that say about our current music industry and the quality of the works produced? I’m still pondering that question.

(Kay B. Day/Oct. 1, 2018)

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