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have you forgotten: sap that sells

I had an interesting juxtaposition of musical moments on the way home from work yesterday.

On WABC, Sean Hannity was interviewing Daryl Worley, composer of the now-playing-everywhere hit Have You Forgotten.

I switched off the show. I just do not like that song, which I will get to in a minute.

On K-Rock, the afternoon DJs, Cabby and Cane, were introducing the latest Beastie Boys single, In a World Gone Mad, an anti-war anti-bush, anti-whatever the world is against these days song.* Yea, I didn't like that song either.

I have this thing against songs that mention real or imagined tragedies, or engage in overwrought attempts to pull people together. Hell, I can't even listen to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald or 1941 New York Mining Disaster without my breaking out in hives. Even Space Oddity leaves me reaching for the anti-itch ointment.

After the Oklahoma City bombing, radio stations across the country reached new heights in manufactured sappiness when someone mixed Live's Lightning Crashes with soundbites from the news reports of the event. I could not for the life of me understand why people wanted to listen to that. Over and over and over, day in and day out for weeks at a time, until the news waned and America moved on to other news, the song played on every single radio station across the land.

And then came September 11, 2001 and for the days after, U2's Stuck in a Moment became the anthem and while some radio stations attempted to throw sound bites over the music, I didn't stick around long enough to listen. Tragedies and disasters stand the test of time on their own. They don't need soundtracks to remind us of the pain or the devastation.

So now we have Daryl Worley - whose personal photographer must have a degree in Fashion Photography - singing about September 11. The song falls into my special category reserved for songs like Christmas Shoes (What if momma meets Jesus tonight?); I call them flesh-eating songs. See the skin-crawling thing above.

Have you forgotten how it felt that day
to see your homeland under fire
and her people blown away
have you forgotten when those towers fell
we had neighbors still inside
going through a living hell
and you say we shouldn't worry about bin laden
have you forgotten

Instead of bringing me to my knees in prayer or making me want to run out and hold my neighbor's hand as we get ready to fight the good fight, the lyrics make me want to crawl under a rock.

In the same way I cringe whenever a musical artist uses his own name in a song, the use of the name bin Laden - rhymed with forgotten - makes me almost want to break out in a fit of giggles.

Yes, I know the song is supposed to be heavily serious. And as much as bin Laden makes me giggle, the use of the imagery of 9/11 is what really makes me skin crawl.

On the other side, we have the Beastie Boys.

Now donít get us wrong Ďcause we love America
But thatís no reason to get hysterica
Theyíre layiní on the syrup thick
We ainít waffles we ainít haviní it

No wonder they haven't recorded anything in five years. They forgot how to write.

It doesn't take them long to come up with the phrase that pays:

Now how many people must get killed?
For oil families pockets to get filled?
How many oil families get killed?
Not a damn one so whatís the deal?

Is this the best the anti-war side has to offer? Country Joe must be turning over in his grave. If he's dead, I mean.

I am an equal opporunity "theme of the moment" song hater. Left, right, whichever way the song is leaning, I'm probably not going to listen to it.

And I'm not going to listen if you conjure up images of something tragic (how soon before we get a Great White Fire ballad?), talk about children pining away for dead parents, tack on an "if we are all just nice to each other the heavens will open and bunnies will rain down from the sky" moral to the lyrics, or throw quotes from Wolf Blitzer over some lyrics that are meant to make you cry as if you just watched Julia Roberts die in Steel Magnolias.

Give me that old time rock.


*(Both Cabby and Cane went out of their way to explain that the song in no way reflected their views. One of them - I think Cabby - is a Gulf War vet)

update: Matthew Stinson has fisked the Beastie Boys song.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference have you forgotten: sap that sells:

» WHICH HAS THE WORSE RHYME? from Heretical Ideas
I'm in general agreement with Michele here on the idiotic war/anti-war songs. And here's the thing that really bothers me--if it weren't for the controversy and news coverage, nobody would be listening to the damn things. Both Dave Worley's Have... [Read More]

» Goodbye nasty from Inoperable Terran
Michele makes fun of modern war songs, both pro and con. Boy have the Beasties gone downhill fast. I think Jim Treacher's comment is right. Sharon Ferguson meanwhile dissents, claming you can write good historically-based songs, and using Rush's "Manha... [Read More]

» Public Service Announcement from Karma to Burn
I noticed that the Beastie Boys have a new anti-war song out. It must be the fashionable Hollywood thing to do these days. What's sad is that they don't even do their side justice. This has brought me to the conclusion that I need to issue a brief PSA. [Read More]

» Public Service Announcement from Karma to Burn
I noticed that the Beastie Boys have a new anti-war song out. It must be the fashionable Hollywood thing to do these days. What's sad is that they don't even do their side justice. This has brought me to the conclusion that I need to issue a brief PSA. [Read More]

So what do you do when one of your favorite music groups goes and does something really really corny and [Read More]


I loved the Beasties growing up -- hell I still like them enough that I bought the Criterion DVD collection, but that song of theirs really smells like Hollywood Unreality Syndrome at work. Sigh.

Amen. I heard that bit on Hannity yesterday, and wanted to retch. 9/11 doesn't need "lyrics" and I certainly don't want to hear OBLs name in a song of any kind. "Music" like this is simply inane at best, and usually nauseating.

ps - same for Lee Greenwood...blech...

I confess that I can't help but like "Proud to be an American." I should hate it, but it always gets me.

Having said that, I mostly agree. I cringe at this stuff most of the time. This reminds me of the "Ladder to Heaven" episode of South Park.

I hate all those songs. I hate it wehn artists try to profit off of a disaster and write stupid songs that are gonna make someones mama cry all day. I never understood why people would listen to them over and over either. is it self inflicted punishment? do they like to be depressed? ick.

Things just haven't been the same since they figured out where Tibet is on a map. I liked them better when they talked about weed and beer and guns and byuutches.

I only heard it once, but some radio station did Don Henley's 'New York Minute' in the week or two after 9/11. It had news clips spliced in (I remember Ashleigh Banfield's "Oh my God" being one of them). That one got to me, probably more because the tune itself has sentimental value for me.

The Worley tune is overdone, and I don't care for that rhyme scheme in the refrain, either.

Keep up the great work - we miss you during the day. Damn these employers!!!! What more do they want from us?

WG from LI

I can't stand icky, sentimental songs about disaster and tragedy either. Say what you like about the Sixties, at least most of the protest songs had humor or some sort of irreverence going for them. (Some exceptions: "Eve of Destruction" and -- yes -- "Blowin' in the Wind." Barf.) Now both sides seem to be caught in some sticky trap of heavy-handed sincerity.

I have a different take, Michele.

A MUCH different take.

The Cantina

Actually, Andrea, I have a soft spot in my heart for "Eve of Destruction." At any rate, I think the worst part about this crap is that it's forcing me to not like a Beastie Boys song. The rhymes are terrible and the song itself sounds like it was written in the mid-80s.

"if we are all just nice to each other the heavens will open and bunnies will rain down from the sky"

That's the funniest thing I have read in quite a few days. Thanks :-)

The Alan Jackson post-9/11 song was pretty good. I liked the Neil Young one (Let's Roll) because it was Neil Young going counter to form, although the song wasn't that good.

I used to like the Lee Greenwood PTBAA song, but it was so overplayed while I was in the Army that it now makes me cringe.

The Worley song is historically inaccurate and rather trite. The Toby Keith Song is moronic.

The news of the Worley song, though, made me download a copy of Hank Jr.'s Gulf War One song "Give Us a Reason." It sucks as song, but is still fairly amusing. Download it from KaZaa or some such; I can't find the lyrics written anywhere on Google.

Thanks to James for bringing up the Alan Jackson and Toby Keith songs.
I'm actually cool with music that is topical about a disaster as long as it is trying to relate to people's pain and confusion.

Pain and loss and not understanding what the hell is going are venerable themes in music.
Trying to vocalize the thoughts of someone who is having those feelings because of 9/11 is no less valid than vocalizing the thoughts of someone who is having those feelings because his girlfriend doesn't love him anymore, or his parents don't understand him, or the kids at school make fun of him, or he just plain feels screwed up?

Unless you despise all music that isn't about sex, drugs, drinking and general fighting for one's right to party, you should keep an open mind about songs inspired by current events.

Let me add to the bonfire the mixing of Enya's Only Time (repurposed from NBC's promos of Friends) with sound clips from the 9/11 massacre. To this day, I can't stand to hear that song.

Of course, a classic "political" song is John Lennon's Imagine, which I admit I like. Sure the lyrics are an abhorrent attempt at brainwashing, but the song is, like, so mellow....

Unless you despise all music that isn't about sex, drugs, drinking and general fighting for one's right to party, you should keep an open mind about songs inspired by current events.

The Beastie Boys have been going downhill for a while. I liked Check Your Head, but it started this bad trend where they felt more and more that they needed to make socially conscious lyrics mostly to make up for their old antics. What they don't realize is that their old music was fun in a juvenile way and was certainly nothing they should be apologizing for. They started to suck when that great sense of humor began to fade. Dammit B-Boys! Have some fun instead of killing yourself trying to prove that you are smart and respect women or whatever.

I'm with you Michele. I'm a fan of Sean's, and expected more from him than that rripe.

Sorry. I hate to disagree, but songs like 'Have You Forgotten?' and 'God Bless the USA' just make me puke.

To me, they're simplistic and fraught with so much cloying, heavy-handed sincerity that they chill my soul.

I don't know that anyone has yet written the definitive 9/11 song (although Bruce Springsteen comes close with 'The Rising' and 'My City of Ruins') but after reading the lyrics and barely being able to listen to the whole song, I know that Darryl Worley isn't the guy who's going to do it.

As for Lee Greenwood's work, I despise his song, 'God Bless the USA', mainly 'cause it just...relentlessly...hammers...his...point...over...and...over. You want a patriotic song?

How's 'bout Irv Berlin's 'God Bless America'? For my money, that song's the song that should have been our National Anthem. Beautiful melody, combined with beautiful lyrics.

In short, both Worley's and Greenwood's songs are utter pieces of Hallmark garbage--they make you feel good, and you won't remember them in the morning.

Okay, I'm done ranting.

Sometimes a balladeer can conjure up images of tragedy while still making what is to my mind great art. Take this for example.

I suppose you guys turn your backs to the flag during the national anthem. People need to be taken back to that time and need to realize that if we don't step in now its just going to happen again and it could be them or their family the next time. I'm tired of all the anti-war sissies that would just rather sit back and let the terrorists take over.

People like FF are the poster children for why songs like Worleys are what this country doesn't need right now. "Have you forgotten" indeed! After all the 24/7 coverage of 9/11, one would think it would be impossible NOT to remember who the hijackers were. Instead, some 50% or so of Americans polled in January thought that some or all of the hijackers were Iraqi. Only 17% got the correct answer, that none were. And even the Bush administration gave up some time ago trying to m ake a case linking a secular despot with a zealot who calls Saddam's regime an "infidel state".

Worley's lyrics imply that "this war" (read: Iraq) has to do with 9/11. It is a lie. And Americans are swallowing it.

I think you need to listen to what Travis Tritt has to say: You should support our President and troops, no matter WHAT side you're on. I love this song, and I love my country. If any one in your family had died in 9/11, I guarantee you would have a different perspective. If you don't believe in what we're fighting for, get on a plane to Iraq.

one thing I'd like to add is that the song "have you forgotten", the original discussion piece, isn't even accurate. He talks about Bin Laden and the World Trade Center as a reason to go to war now (ie with Iraq), but the two aren't even RELATED! Oh, and supporting Bush or the war when you don't agree isn't unpatriotic, it's having your own opinion. Last time I checked, there is a little something called Freedom of Speech here in the US. Moving to a repressive regime because I believe in peace and not bombing the homes of Iraqi children is a little extreme...

Sure, It is really stupid for artists to try and take advantage every time there is a disaster. But on the other hand, right now we are going to war with a country that would love to see America burn in Hell. Now we have people trying to protest the president for doing what should be done, what any true american would do. I think the song "Have You Forgotten" is a wake-up call for all of those who don't want to defend our country.
On a personal note : I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but if you like to protest this country that much. There are 100+ other countries around the world, why don't you move there.

you're crazy......if you dont think we should go to war, then leave the country.....stop whining.....kill em all, i say

Yeah get the hell out of this country and shut the hell up! These pro-war songs are called INSPIRATION. Inspiration to go kick ass in Iraq and any other country that doesn't comply with the USA. You democrats need to stop protesting and get out!!!!! Democrats are always BITCHING about something!

It's a matter of prefrence. Those that have lost loved ones want to make sure that we don't forget the reason we're at war. Life goes on and those that weren't directly impacted sometimes forget as they move on with day to day activitis. We haveanti-war protesters out making a public display that we shouldn't be at war yet it was ok for our "homeland to be underfire and her people blown away"? I don't like war and the casualties that come from it but this is the time to be in prayer. EARNEST prayer for our country. Daryl Worleyand his song is a bessing to those that need and accept the blessing. May God richly bless you all.

Whatever, you stupid rednecks. Look at the facts, you republican piece of shit. When Clinton was in office, we had jobs, we were prosperous, we had savings for our retirement, we had a surplus instead of a huge 4 trillion dollar deficit, AND we had a couple of buildings called the World Trade Center in New York. So cram it. Democrats suck, too. GREEN PARTY all the way!!!!