There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

The body of musical knowledge, from Gore to Drake

As the decades pass, bodies of knowledge are built up that later generations can reference. If I want to understand possible future changes in the United States, I can study the history of England, or of Rome, or of one of the Greek city states. If I want to understand science, or our lack of understanding of science, I can look at past scientific experiements and theories – some of which are still viable, and some of which are not. (I assume none of you have been treated with leeches lately.)

And if I want to understand a particular phrase in a song, I can look at songs that were sung a half century ago.

I had my car radio on, and was listening to a Drake song that I had probably heard a dozen times before. But this time, I was suddenly struck by a particular line that Drake sang:

It’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to

The line in and of itself is not that monumental of a line, but if you take a moment, and think about the rhythm of the words, and then think of a different melody that was sung a half century ago, you end of with the chorus of Lesley Gore’s biggest hit of a half century ago – her song “It’s My Party.” (Note: Lesley Gore is unrelated to Martin.) It’s a completely different story – in Gore’s song, the protagonist has lost her boyfriend to a girl named Judy. But the rhythm of the words nearly echoes that song that was a hit before Drake was born.

So did Drake intentionally mimic Gore? According to one commenter at rapgenius.com, he did not:

It would be clever if he was taking this line from back in the day and using it as an excuse to blaze. However, he’s actually interpolating Fabolous’s line in This is My Party from his Street Dreams album (2003)

And if you look at the Fabolous song, you’ll see that it was Fabolous that was recalling Gore.

But this is my party
Stroll by if you want to
Or ya’ll can stay home
But why would you want to?

Thematically, this is even more divorced from Gore’s original. In the 1960s version, the protagonist is the only one who is having a bad time at the party, but by the time Fabolous was singing, everybody was (if I may quote Wang Chung) having fun tonight.

So it’s quite possible that Drake was channeling Lesley Gore via an intermediary. Maybe Drake had never even heard the Lesley Gore song when he wrote “Take Care.”

The same thing happens in other fields, in which a politician may quote Thomas Jefferson, who may have been quoting a 17th century philosopher, who may have been quoting an ancient Greek.

The intriguing part is that what I consider modern popular music – in other words, anything after Bill Haley – has now been around for over 55 years. And that’s a lot of songs that new songwriters can reference.

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