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On a historic day in aviation, let’s take off with some musical flights

I hope any holiday air travel in this too-early winter hasn’t been too much of a hassle for you, but even if it has, don’t blame Orville and Wilbur.

Without all the hard work of the Wright Brothers, we might all be grounded, even in good weather.  Well, maybe.

At any rate, today marks a special day in aviation history — the 107th anniversary of the brothers’ first successful powered airplane flight. On Dec. 17, 1903, on the windswept beaches of Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville took their creation on a 12-second, 120-foot flight. By the end of the day (and three more runs) the brothers were up to a best of 59 seconds in the air and 852 feet.

The rest, of course, is history — which we celebrate today with some musical flights of fanciful adventure. Join us for a first-class look at some “flying” songs.

We’ll start with the Chairman of the Board riffing on some international flights:

• Frank Sinatra’s timeless “Come Fly With Me,” with stops in Bombay, Peru and Acapulco Bay

• And an even longer flight, with Joe Harnell’s “Fly Me to the Moon (Bossa Nova)”  

They can fly 
• And a real high flier, “Up, Up and Away,” which won six Grammys in 1967. The Fifth Dimension had the most popular version of the balloon journey. And the lyrics include the line “We can fly,” which also proved to be a good title for …  

• The Cowsills, with their 1968 hit “We Can Fly”  

• More than a decade earlier, however, Mary Martin mesmerized young baby-boomer TV audiences as Peter Pan with “I’m Flying” and her advice (“Think lovely thoughts”).

Three for the birds …
And, not surprisingly, lots of songwriters are more than happy to allude to their feathered friends’ flights:

• The Steve Miller Band offered “Fly Like an Eagle.”

• The Bells opted for a more peaceful bird with “Fly Little White Dove Fly”

• And there’s a disco bird, too: “Fly, Robin, Fly,” by the Silver Convention.

… and one for the bees
• Check out “Bumble Boogie,” B. Bumble and the Stingers’ boogie-woogie version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

And one duet
• John Denver teams up here with Olivia Newton-John on his 1975-76 hit “Fly Away.”  

Three novelty songs
We’ll start our final approach with three seldom-heard, novelty recordings:

• Buchanan and Goodman’s 1956 breakthrough “break-in” song, “The Flying Saucer (Parts 1 and 2),” which combined snippets of hit songs with fake radio “news reports” — and prompted a bunch of similar efforts.

“Flying Blue Angels,” an adventure song by George, Johnny and the Pilots that was a Top Five Twin Cities hit in late 1961 but flopped nationwide.

• And Chubby Checker’s 1961Top 10 hit that produced one of many short-live dance crazes: “The Fly.” You can check out the moves below.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/17/2010 - 09:20 am.

    I would put Liz Phair’s ‘Stratford on Guy’ up there:

    I was flying into Chicago at night
    Watching the lake turn the sky into blue-green smoke
    The sun was setting to the left of the plane
    And the cabin was filled with an unearthly glow
    In 27-D I was behind the wing
    watching landscape roll outlike credits on a screen

    The earth looked like it was lit from within
    like a poorly assembled electrical ball as we moved
    Out of the farmlands into the grid
    The plan of the city was all that you saw
    And all of these people sitting totally still
    As the ground raced beneath them thirty thousand feet down

    It took an hour, maybe a day
    But once I really listened, the noise
    Just went away

    And I was pretending that I was in a Galaxie 500 video
    The stewardess came back and checked on my drink
    In the last strings of sunlight, a Bridgette Bardot
    There’s a head on my headphones
    Along with those eyes that you get
    When your circumstance is movie size

    It took an hour, maybe a day
    But once I really listened, the noise
    Just went away

    It took an hour, maybe a day
    But once I really listened, the noise
    Just went away

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