Saturday, November 25, 2006

In Vino Veritas

Wine has played such a big role in popular music there is an oenological Web site devoted to song titles of the ilk. Some obvious and popular ones include “Bottle of Wine” by Tom Paxton, “Drinkin’ Wine Spodey-Oh-Dee” sung by Jerry Lee Lewis, or “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” by Tom T. Hall.

Wine is the lyric of sentimentality, an emblem of alcoholic irresponsibility more genteel than the raw deeds of, say, tequila drinkers.

Those who know me will not be surprised to learn I bend toward the nonobvious, favor the less popular, drink outside the box. Driving home from a Thanksgiving trip, I was playing some old CDs, mostly of the folk and pop music variety when I fell in love again with the bit of treacle by the New Christy Minstrels in 1964 called, “Today.” You may remember it as the melodic vessel containing the lyric, “I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine.”

That single line has spawned many jokes and parodies, but probably spawned a few children as well. There is something about wine that makes a bad song good – no I don’t mean drinking it, I mean the lyrics themselves, the idea that kisses can be sweeter than wine; that “your sweet wine” is as good as tasting – not just eating -- “your strawberries.”

One of the dirtiest songs ever to slip by censors of country music – people who wouldn’t play the Dixie Chicks because of their politics views but who never minded in the prudish ‘60s playing this song – “Mary’s Vineyard” -- about bootlegging, theft and rape. It is a memorable song, nonetheless, by Claude King, better known as the suitor troubadour from “Wolverton Mountain.”

Another strange wine song, especially to those not encyclopedic in their knowledge of Yiddish musical tradition, is an alternate national anthem called “Roumania, Roumania,” in this unusual full-length version purred exceptionally well by the multilingual Earth Kitt. (Original lyric, in translation:
“Roumanians drink wine and eat mamalige, (a polenta)/ And whoever kisses his own wife is the one who's crazy!”
Did I mention tequila?

Yes, I believe so. Forget the 1950s eponymous instrumental by that name (no link to lyrics here, since it had only one). Try these two for the celebration of the fruit of the agave (part of the lily family!).

Shel Silverstein’s “Pour Me Another Tequila, Sheila, (And Lay Down and Love Me Again”)

And “Jose Cuervo,” a minor but way overlooked anthem from 1983 by Shelley West, who sings the immortal bad-girl stanza:

Now wait a minute, things don't look too familiar,
And who is this cowboy asleepin' beside me?
Well, he's awful cute, but how'd I get his shirt on?
I had too much tequila last night.

That’s all for now, but I ask readers of this blog to contribute more musical titles about wine (or even about wasting away in Margaritaville) than this forgetful teetotaler can summon from the spirits.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:28 PM

    No mention of my personal wine favorite: War and "Spill the Wine"

    However, for many years I thought we were "digging that girl" and not taking that pearl, but then that brings us to a whole 'nother subject of mis-heard lyrics.