Five of the best harmonies in popular music

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The Fleetwoods, “Come Slowly To Me” (Dolphin Records, 1959)

Best harmonies of popular music

A few weeks ago a friend asked Twitter the question: What are the best harmonies in popular music? Presumably, like many of us, she felt homesick for a while before last month, when people could still be within two meters of each other, maybe even harmonize in real life. I thought about it and made a short list, another of my “remote play” sections because I can’t stand a newer podcast or DJ set from someone’s living room. As life outside in the real world slowed at a breakneck pace during the COVID-19 lockdown, the online media onslaught surged into hyperspeed. For once, keeping up with the pace didn’t even occur to me.

I sense another retromaniacal era is approaching in which many of us, at least in the media industries, temporarily shy away from what we call contemporary culture. The familiar refrain, along with the curves, the vaccines and the stories of the new normal, is that “no one saw this coming”. Well, someone did. Someone saw it coming. Just nobody who should have known: nobody in the White House; none of the Epstein truths who pivoted to China; none of the drums and Trump that usually accompany announcements of unprecedented importance; none on the Avant-Garde, the kind of death figures that usually result from war. Corona came slowly, not with a bang.

Mamas & Papas, “Dedicated to the one I love”, Moms and dads deliver (1967)

Best harmonies of popular music

The official number of moms and dads is a public matter. But according to lovable lore and legend, a fifth member, neither mum nor dad, was conjured and made material and furthermore sonic – sound producer, supra-singing – via the complex harmonies and consummate collective bugle specter than this group invented around a microphone, live in the studio. Like an angel hanging over them – an excited angel, breaking down walls with his excitement. Surely there is something libidinal and eternal here. Why would Charles Manson, Dennis Hopper, Steve McQueen or Quentin Tarantino have smelled differently?

The Crisps, “Rubber Biscuit” (Josie Records, 1956)

Best harmonies of popular music

Say friend, have you ever tried to bake leaven? Heritage hipsterism, and its adjacent hucksterism, is back. With the news that the town’s community gardens could close for the season, many of us freaked out over soil, seeds and mulch thinking we could grow our grandmothers’ cucumbers, as well as our own grandmothers in a compost heap on our pristine white sheets like a student film by David Lynch.

Maybe just a batch of muffins then. No? Well, anyone has apparently put a combination of flour, yeast and butter in the oven lately, posting the questionable results on their public and private networks – dough to fill the weighty drought. Everyone tries in turn to make their donuts, to boil their scones, to burn their cookies, just to avoid the dreaded queue of bread. In quarantine, we have all become master bakers.

Everly Brothers, “Don’t Blame Me” (Warner Brothers Records, 1961)

Best harmonies of popular music

The thing everyone knows but don’t say about this coronavirus is: if it was for some other reason, we would have taken to the streets. If this was an act of terrorism, or even all-out war, and our dear leaders had locked us inside for our own protection, we would have stormed the palaces asking, ” What protection? And by whom? By all accounts, this could have been a great year for collective action. Not virtual but collective action. The kind that demands and doesn’t just prefer the magic of contact. Body together. The shame is that a younger generation will emerge wary of being around others. Divided we fall.

But don’t despair, because your choice wasn’t even counted in all of this. No one came to your house or apartment during a plebiscite or sent you a questionnaire to find out what you would do in the unlikely event of a pandemic. We were not consulted. We therefore have no responsibility to assume. Nope. Get rid of that weight. Your inherent mediumship is not to the test. Note the rumors that this virus just cut fat or just killed those nature considered consumable. Don’t forget that Legault said, on everyday Easter Sunday – the day we collectively discovered that 31 citizens died in a single residence – that Quebec will be “reborn” after this crisis.

Some of us will fondly remember it as the time when we streamed Netflix and didn’t step out of our pajamas except when we all sang Leonard Cohen on our balconies. Some of us will remember it as the time when tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people died prematurely.

George Jones and Tammy Wynette, “Near You” (Epic Records, 1976)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTURN4HVMmw

Best harmonies of popular music

It’s time to decide where we want to go back. Since COVID-19 has disrupted all aspects of life, we truly have the ultimate opportunity to make some serious choices. Choice of life. Things that will affect the course of our lives together, separately, forever.

What song will we sing? The first thing that comes to my mind. ■

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