Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pandora + Copacabana + Bob Marley = Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting

Do you Pandora? It’s a free website ( that lets you create online ‘radio stations’ based on music you choose – for example, you put in an artist’s name or a song name and then it picks other songs and bands that are similar, based on its “music genome project.” So you can type in “Loretta Lynn” for example and it will choose selections of her tunes and other songs that are deemed to be similar whether it’s in the use of harmonies, rhythym, arrangement, etc.

You register for a free account and off you go (if you want to skip the occasional ads, you can upgrade and pay for the premium service). But it will play all day long, or until you sign out.

Listeners can rate the songs it chooses for you, giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down, to help the program refine your likes and dislikes. You can also select genres like adult contemporary, classical, etc. The site has recently added ads, but they are not too obtrusive. I like listening to it at work when I need some extra pep. There are also Pandora apps for phones so you can listen to it on the road/on the go. Pandora makes me happy.

It’s always interesting to see what other songs the software deems compatible with your selected artist, genre or song. The other day I chose “punk/new wave” because I was in the mood for 80’s music. Most of the songs and bands were what you’d expect, but I was surprised to see Creedence Clearwater Revival mixed in there.

Not that I would ever question Pandora’s choices, but I don’t think I would classify Creedence as new wave or punk.

Yesterday something came up at work about the song “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. I plugged it into Pandora to see what would come up – a lot of it was understandable: Earth, Wind and Fire, Bee Gees (same song twice, live version), Village People, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson …

But then it threw in Men at Work (Down Under), A-Ha (Take on me) and Blondie (Tide is High). And of course several versions of Copacabana – now I know there’s an acoustic version. With Pandora, you can also mix artists together, so if you’re curious to see what combining, say Shakira and Johnny Cash would produce musically, check it out.

The Copacabana experiment also generated the song “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. You’ll recall this was a one-hit wonder, disco sensation. According to Pandora, Douglas was the first Jamaican-born artist to score a number one hit on the U.S. charts. Did I mention, Pandora also gives you bios on the artists/bands, information about all their albums, and you can buy/download the music too if you’re so inclined. Very handy.

But back to Carl Douglas – when I read that he was the first Jamaican musician to get to #1 on the American music charts, Bob Marley jumped to mind. I guess Marley never charted , or maybe not so high. No pun intended.

Speaking of which, Feb 6 was Bob Marley’s birthday, which for some reason I have written down in my birthday book along with the birth dates of my friends and relatives. I have also learned that Bob Marley shares a birthday with:

Ronald Reagan
Axl Rose
Zsa Zsa Gabor

Surely this must mean something but I haven’t figured it out yet.

There was a small exhibit on Rastafari culture and history at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History a couple of years back that I had the fortune to see, it was very interesting. I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about the origins of Rastafarianism so thank you, Smithsonian, for educating me. One of the things I love dearly about the DC area. And my that Haile Selassie was quite the captivating person, wasn't he?

His title of Ras, an Ethiopian nobility title, appears to have been the origin of the name Rastafari; he is believed to be a descendant of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and seen by some as the second coming of Christ.

You can read more about the exhibit and Rastafaris –

Apparently, there is also some sort of sea worm named after Bob Marley. The ocean is a mysterious place.

"Until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes...the dream of lasting peace...will remain but a fleeting illusion." Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, speaking before the United Nations in 1963

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