Playlist of my life: 1973

Yesterday, I told you that I like songs that tell a certain kind of story. The song I picked for 1973 also tells that kind of story.

This was a hard year for me to pick a song for. Nothing especially stands out for me when I think “1973″ and nothing on the billboard charts reminded me of a story. So I picked a song that has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember singing anything: Big Bad John, by Jimmy Dean.

Although my family didn’t listen to music much, I did have a tiny orange record player that played 45s. I used it to play those records that read books to you (”bong” turn the page now) and some old 45s that belonged to my mother. I also had a very basic cassette tape player (the kind that looked like this) and a set of tapes with “Children’s Favorite Songs” on it. Big Bad John was on one of those tapes, and I played that particular tape over and over and over again, always singing along with “Big Bad John” at the top of my lungs.

Big Bad John was written by Jimmy Dean and Roy Acuff as a straight-up country song, but I’ve always thought of it as a kids song since it was on those tapes. In retrospect, that’s horrifying, since the story the song tells is a blood-curdling one of a mine accident and the accident’s hero, with whiffs of sex and murder added as an afterthought.

I have always loved this song, and still sing along with it quite loudly when I can. Initially, I think it was the big, explosive consonants in the song that I loved to blast out, and a little later I think I was taken by the song’s central act of sacrifice and heroism. When I was older, I was disappointed to learn that there were sequels to the song where John lives. That’s just not right, and is far too sugary an ending for this story and my tastes. I prefer to ignore the sequels.

I’m taking a liberty by picking this song for 1973. I’m sure that I wasn’t working the tape player by myself when I was 2, and we may not have even had those tapes then. But since the song was released 10 years before I was born, and since I’ve picked more relevant songs for the rest of the 1970s, this seemed a good place to put Big Bad John. Besides, this is the very first song I have a specific memory of singing — surely it deserves a low number on my list.

Do you have a favorite song or music-related memory from 1973? Share it in the comments!

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Posted on June 3rd, 2011 by Katxena