My entry into the fictious Encyclopedia of Possible Explanations for Thingsis “walk up songs”. It reads: “A “walk up song” is a song chosen by a person, and played when that person enters a place where they want to command attention. Meant as an introduction, it conveys an attitude relatable to that person. Extra points for a song that renders the crowd hopelessly enthusiastic.”
My entry goes on to explain that the original walk up song might have been the fanfare played by the heralds on their trumpets as their King entered the room… “Dat dat da DAH!”. The same idea was transferred to horse racing, aka “the sport of kings”, to signal the entrance of the next group of racehorses to the track.
The walk up song that makes me smile is actually the recorded song the ice cream man plays from his truck to tell the kids in my neighborhood to find a bunch of quarters, and do it now. The song is, incongruously, a calliope version of Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid”.
This past Saturday night, with a socially distanced crowd gathered in a parking lot in Wilmington, Delaware, two notable walk up songs were played. One was a Mary J. Blige song, one was by Bruce Springsteen. The Vice-President and President-elects were the ones being introduced. Kamala Harris made her entrance to Blige’s "Work That," her not so subtle nod to female empowerment. Biden jogged onto the stage while Springsteen's song, "We Take Care of Our Own," blasted out to his new constituents.
Inspired by our new leaders, I asked several area folks the following question: “If you were elected Vice President or President of the United States, what would be your “walk up” song at the victory rally?” The respondents were divided into two categories; politicians and musicians. Their answers might keep you searching YouTube for a while, dancing in your chair the whole time.
Local treasure Jon Williams simultaneously answered the question and opened another can of worms. He said, “I would first get the consent of the artist. After the artist agrees and supports using their intellectual material…I would use Michael Franti’s “All the Freaky People”. His mentioned topic of copyright infringement will be covered in another story.
A surprisingly succinct response from Glen Ellen’s Jeff Falconer was “Cakewalk” by Taj Majal. Falconer’s choice is simple and triumphant, joyous and fun.
Local harmonica hotshot Steen Berrig took the question very seriously, offering two songs before settling on Curtis Mayfield’s “New World Order”. The late funk and soul singer painstakingly recorded the song after becoming paralyzed after a freak onstage accident, requiring him to lie on his back to get enough air to actually sing. Berrig also suggested MC Hammer’s “Can’t Stop This”.
Dave Aguilar texted “I’ll Take You There! Staple Singers!!”. He included some of the lyrics of this jubilant song as an explanation, “I know a place, ain’t nobody cryin’, ain’t nobody worryin’, ain’t no smiling faces lying to the races”. Sounds like a plank of togetherness.
As a restaurant owner and musician, Codi Binkley has a different set of skills to offer towards national leadership. He chose Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”. The choo-choo train drum part would give him a sweet beat to stroll to the podium.
Richie Mayer is another local musician who mentioned getting permission first. He then would choose another Mayfield song, “People Get Ready”. But Mayer’s first choice would be a song he wrote called “Is Everybody Ready”, from his new album. He said, “I wrote it in disgust over the state of out “union”. It is a call to arms”.
Tommy Thomsen forsook the swing in favor of a classic, John Lennon’s “Imagine”. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”, he texted. Not a song to rev up the crowd, but certainly one to inspire them.
Luthier and musician Steve Klein texted in response, “With the absurdity of the question, that I could actually be elected to office… I can really only answer with a song from my old friend and past presidential hopeful, Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far”.
Huh? Yep, Joe Walsh ran as a write in candidate for president in 1980. His campaign promise was “Free Gas for Everyone”. He promised to make his song, and Klein’s choice of walk up song, the new national anthem.
Next week, the politicians place their votes.