August 03, 2005

singing flight

Scalzi began a discussion thread with, "Why are there so many songs about rainbows?" Actually, I'm not convinced there are. I can think of three, offhand: The Rainbow Connection, obviously; Somewhere Over the Rainbow; and Look to the Rainbow, from Finian's R.

But the real question, to my mind, should be, "Why are there so few songs about flying?" I 've never actually sailed anything bigger than a Sunfish (been on a few others were sailing, though), but I can sing you songs about sailing until you beg for mercy. (Granted, for most people, that happens in about five minutes.) There are hundreds of them, and not all the sailing songs date back to the days when people actually did sing attheir work. Yet there are hardly any songs about actually being off the ground, chasing clouds and rainbows. Not that you can get near a rainbow, but I have now flown through clouds. There are a few that are only tangential and don't really count, like Leaving on a Jet Plane or Early Morning Rain, but as far as actual flying songs, all I can think of are Archie Fisher's song Bill Hosie (about a man who built a replican Supermarine S-5 and Bill Staines' Tingmissartoq (about the plane Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh took up tot eh Arctic) and both of those are fairly obscure. Note: both can be found on Staines' album Looking for the Wind, should you want to hear them - but even that album, titled about his first landing at the controls, contains only those two and Early Morning Rain for flying songs.)

There are a few songs about flying without airplanes: Iron Maiden, Ani DiFranco, Reilly & Maloney and Richard Berman have all sung about Icaurs, though only the first and third of those really dwell on the flying experience, and there's I'm Flying! from the Peter Pan musical.

There's the Indigo Girls' song Airplane, but that's mostly about wishing you were back on the ground. John Denver once put the poem High Flight to music, but I've never found a recording. (He was hosting a special about NASA -I'd love a video of the whole thing.) There are a couple of songs about space flight, though I think of that as a different animal (an even more exciting one, in my opinion), but both Space Oddity and its remake Major Tom end with the astronaut's death. Elton John's Rocketman is about the dreary planetside part of the job. His Rocket Man is a trucker who just happens to drive a spaceship.

With the amount of time humanity has spent on dreaming of flight and on trying to get off the ground, you'd think we'd sing about it a little more.

Posted by dichroic at August 3, 2005 01:05 PM

Come take a trip in my airship
Come take a trip round the stars
Come take a sail around Venus
Come take a sail around Mars
No one to watch while we're kissing,
no one to see while we spoon
Come take a trip in my airship
and we'll visit the Man in the Moon.

Posted by: Melanie at August 3, 2005 02:08 PM

For rainbows, "I'm always chasing rainbows, Watching clouds drifting by..." For a really old flyng song, "Come, Josephine, in my flying machine..." That one's about a hundred years old. Undoubtedly I'll think about a few more after I've finished writing.

Posted by: l-empress at August 3, 2005 02:43 PM

I think maybe composers find airplanes more mundane - when they feel like flying, they write about having wings or floating, not about being in machines. Which doesn't explain why there are so many songs about automobiles, but it was a good theory while it lasted.

Posted by: golfwidow at August 3, 2005 03:07 PM

"Defying Gravity" from WICKED comes to mind. As does "Interplanet Janet" from SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK.

Posted by: Mechaieh at August 3, 2005 08:42 PM
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