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Some ‘news songs’ for us optimists to celebrate National Newspaper Week

Despite downbeat assessments, I’m still hopeful that newspapers — particularly the Twin Cities’ two dailies — will survive — and thrive — for many years to come. So, let’s pay musical tribute.

Call me an optimist — cockeyed or otherwise.

Despite Monday’s downbeat assessment of their future by MinnPost’s John Reinan, I’m still hopeful that newspapers  — particularly the Twin Cities’ two dailies — will survive — and thrive — in some form for many years to come.

But hey, I’ve got to say that the industry itself isn’t making it easy to sell the public on its value.

Here we are nearing the start of National Newspaper Week (Oct. 2-8) and it’s mindboggling to see the paltry amount of easy-to-access online information about U.S. newspapers and their important role in society.

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If you Google “U.S. newspapers” or “U.S. newspaper statistics” or even “National Newspaper Week,” you’ll find very little useful information making their case. In fact, you’re more likely to find a lot of out-of-date stats or hidden-away “kits” promoting newspapers. Not sure why they’re “hiding” their story. 

About the best I could find is March circulation numbers for the Top 100 papers (not quite an upper, either) and marginal info and stats.

But I’ve come to praise newspapers, not prematurely bury them. So, enough of that.

And although newspapers and the news industry are not often the subject of songwriters, I’ve managed to put together a modest list of songs that at least mention (sometimes cynically) – if not celebrate – “news” in general and/or newspapers in particular.

Hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Here’s the latest “news” about news songs:

Newspaper reading
Several songs actually mention reading newspapers:

• The Beatles’ influential “A Day in the Life,” with the memorable line:

I read the news today oh, boy

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• Barry McGuire’s “Cloudy Summer Afternoon (Raindrops),” complete with horns and piano, credits the newspaper for helping the couple bond:

We read the paper as we lay on the floor smoking that last cigarette
Nothing was said for an hour or more but I can never forget …

• In “Escape (The Pina Colada Song),” a devious Rupert Holmes uses the classified ads to help him cheat on his partner:

So while she lay there sleeping
I read the paper in bed
And in the personal columns
There was this letter I read …

• And all those Damon Runyon characters in “Guys and Dolls” depend on the daily paper for the latest news developments:

What’s in the daily news?
I’ll tell you what’s in the daily news.
Story about a man bought his wife a small ruby
With what otherwise would have been his union dues.
That’s what’s in the daily news.

“Extra! Extra!” — a vaudeville stage number from Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Gypsy.”

• And Don McLean’s “American Pie”:

… February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

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Two cynical “news” songs
• Hedgehoppers Anonymous’ hedged their bets with “It’s Good News Week,” an early1966 song offering two versions (explained here nicely by Kent Kotal at his remarkable Forgotten Hits website). You be the judge of which is more “offensive” — the one mentioning birth control, or the more commonly heard one about folks in Asia “butchering off the sacred cow.”

• Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 song “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night,” juxtaposing the traditional Christmas carol with a simulated broadcast of the grisly headlines from Aug. 3, 1966, read by the late Charlie O’Donnell, longtime  “American Bandstand” sidekick of Dick Clark.

And a quartet of other ‘news’ songs
• Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News.”

• One sample of “Bad News,” from Kanye West.

• And to end on an upbeat note, two pieces of “Good News”:

        • One from Sam Cooke.

        • And one the title tune from the 1947 June Allyson-Peter Lawford college movie.