I got thinking about the role of music as a soundtrack to two not-necessarily-related human activities - love and sex. Ahead of next week's celebration of all things romantic, I thought it might be fun to consider the more carnal aspects of human relationships, and how they are reflected in popular song. Humans have always celebrated sexual intimacy in song; the poetry of Sappho, existing only in fragments, is perhaps three thousand years old. The Song of Songs in the Bible may be nearly as old. Indian songs and sex manuals and even carvings adorn the subcontinent. Only in the past couple hundred years, particularly in America and Britain, has there been any effort to pretend that human sexuality isn't a fit subject for the aural arts.
Here in the US, our folk music traditions, most especially the blues, celebrate sex in ways that are both humorous and deeply human. The old blues standard, "He's My Handyman" is the marvelous celebration by a woman of her man's sexual prowess. Even older tunes like "Diggin' My Potatoes" are even more carnal.
Rhythm and blues, rock, and rap continue this trend. Apart from the explicit songs, like "Get Low", or W.A.S.P.'s "Animal", there are songs like Charlies Rich's "Behind Closed Doors", The Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" (I love this one in particular because, as a child, this homage to the female orgasm was played all over AM radio; I am embarrassed to admit that one of my sisters had to tell me what the song was about; hey, I wasn't eleven years old!), and The Doors' "Love Me Two Times" were glorifications of sex that got all sorts of airplay.
The hard rock bands of the 1980's were a bit more open. For example, Whitesnake's "Slide It In" and The Bullet Boys' "Smooth Up In Ya". managed to get their message across pretty clearly.
The Christian churches have had a devilish time dealing with the celebration of sex in popular song. From the Middle Ages right up to the latest rap hit, the first response has been to shush the singer, and condemn the listeners. Except we human beings are a marvelous, complex animal, and sex happens to be an important part of human life. Celebrating sex is celebrating being alive, being human. Take some time before you get all smarmy and mushy next Tuesday and listen to a tune or two that revels in all the sweaty goodness of being human together.
OK, enough of that before I get all hot and bothered. Let's see what "random" offers up, shall we?
China Cat Sunflower - The Dead, May 4, 2009 Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL
Dear Father - Yes
I'll Take New York - Tom Waits
Melrose Avenue - California Guitar Trio
Symphony #5, 4th Movement - Ludwig van Beethoven
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed - The Allman Brothers Band
Treat You Right - Bob Marley
Sehnsucht - Rammstein
So Legt Ihn in Die Blumen, Lazarus Oratorio - Franz Schubert
Boplicity - Miles Davis
Oh, why not? Cheesy, way too much hair, but, heck, it's fun, right?