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Jukebox Democracy

Posted Monday, November 8, 2010, at 4:47 PM

It's sometimes difficult to remember, particularly during an election year, that ours is a free country, where the majority rules and everyone can vote. And we are fortunate that, despite the ups and downs of one political party or another, despite our best attempts to sink the ship of state, America has managed to survive wars, depressions, recessions and a host of Congressmen and women and governors, presidents and other public officials who were not worthy of our support by hanging on to that democratic ideal.

But if you remain frustrated and angry over the results of the recent election, or even if you're not, there is something you can do to make yourself feel much better. It's a place where you and you alone can control the outcome of something that's a little bit like an election, but without the need to deal with ugly attack ads, pointless debates or robo-calls on your telephone.

Friends and neighbors, I give you the jukebox.

Although they've been around for more than 120 years, they're not as easy to find as they used to be. In days gone by, there was a jukebox in every bar worthy of the name (and some that were not), in every drugstore that had a lunch counter and even a tiny space to dance, in every bowling alley ever built, in small cafes and diners and many other places. Today, you can travel for miles in any direction and never once run across a jukebox.

The beauty of the jukebox was (and remains, except for the price) that whoever had a dime got to decide what the jukebox would play. It was limited, of course, by what records were available on a particular machine, but within those records, the choice was yours. If your allowance was big enough, and you had a quarter to waste, you could pick three records to play. If you had enough money, and felt like wasting a lot of it, you could control the jukebox for hours at a time.

Anybody who didn't like your picks was stuck with listening to them, but had the same right to step up to the glittering, twinkling, bubbling, neon-lit Art Deco masterpiece and make what he or she thought were "better" choices.

The idea that some choices are better than others is quite democratic, too. Everyone thinks the music they like is better than the music the other guy likes. When there's a mix of age groups in the immediate vicinity of the jukebox, it's interesting to note the reactions of each group to music from different decades.

The music we like is the music, by and large, that was popular when we were teenagers. That's not necessarily a universal truth, but it's a general truth. My parents didn't like rock 'n' roll, which was new even before I was a teenager. THEIR parents thought what today we call Big Band music was awful, possibly even sinful. And if you go back far enough, the stately, sedate waltz was once considered the height of wickedness.

As for me, I like it (almost) all. Although I'm biased in favor of the music of the late 50s and early 60s, I'm pretty eclectic in my musical tastes. I can usually find something I like in virtually every genre from classical to country to jazz to hip-hop to rap, beginning, I guess, at the beginning of music and including everyone from Jeremiah Clarke in 1699 to Lady Gaga today.

It's not likely you'll find the "Prince of Denmark's March" on a jukebox, but I'd pay money to hear it, just like I'd pay money to hear "Poker Face," "Crazy," "Legs" and Glenn Miller.

I have found it's much better to be democratic in your musical tastes than to assign a value of "better" or "worse" or "awful" or "boring" to something that someone else wants to hear. Listen with a more open mind and you might be surprised to find you like it. You might not like it enough to pay to hear it, but whenever you want to change the tune, all you have to do is dig down in your pocket and pay for the privilege just like everyone else.

That's the beauty of democracy.


Comments
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Thank you, Kathy. Great column.

Prince of Denmark's March is available on YouTube. I'll keep it in mind as a boost to the spirits whilst getting through the next 41 days until daylight begins to lengthen.

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Tue, Nov 9, 2010, at 11:53 AM

upsedaisy, thank you. I think I'll just shimmy (like my sister, Kate) on over to youtube and listen to the PDM, add a layer of "In the Mood" on top of that, sample a little "Nessun Dorma" and close it out with "Jailhouse Rock." I might even see if I can find "I'll Fly Away" while I'm at it. All music is good - some is just "gooder" than the rest, eh?

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, Nov 9, 2010, at 6:22 PM

Sorry, but I have to draw the line at Charles Ives. :)

-- Posted by Slater on Wed, Nov 10, 2010, at 9:40 PM

I can't disagree with you, Slater. To say the least, Ives is a little, well, odd. And John Cage is not on my hit parade, either. But even leaving out the "new music" folks and some of the other, more esoteric composers, there is still an abundance of really wonderful music.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Thu, Nov 11, 2010, at 6:56 AM

hey cathy

i remember when an uncle was putting in a restaurant / gas station in the hills of arkansas. the day the jukebox was delivered, the man asked what music they wanted on it. grandpa - who would be manning the "filling station" (remember those?) said he didn't care as long as "Peace in The Valley" by Tex Ritter was on there somewhere.

for me - anything from hank williams to 50s and 60s rock, from gospel to contemporary christian, and from the eagles to bluegrass will do. elvis, carl perkins, johnny cash - even kris kristofferson and rita coolidge. toss in some jazz and maybe some good ol' classical music too. and maybe 'color my world' by chicago - for a slow dance or two.

good memories - thanks for the momentary stroll down memeory lane.

zeke

-- Posted by zeke on Thu, Nov 11, 2010, at 2:40 PM

zeke - Glad you enjpyed it. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed Grandpa's choices, too!

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Thu, Nov 11, 2010, at 4:31 PM

Do they have jukeboxes where one song has the legal right to by-pass the Constitution, the legal process, and the courts and order the execution of any and all the other songs?

Do they make a jukebox where one song can by-pass the judicial process, the Constitution, and all legal precedents and order the permanent incarceration of any and all the other songs?

Because I know sometimes a guy or a gal can be enjoying a song about freedom and forget that the American President President can do those things to you -- and that is a fact.

Maybe we need a whole new jukebox with all new songs...

-- Posted by news across on Sun, Apr 15, 2012, at 5:37 PM

Or maybe, news, we could just realize that this little writing is really only about jukeboxes and nothing else.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sun, Aug 19, 2012, at 9:43 PM


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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.
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