The days of The Mississippi River Festival may be long gone, but the music and memories live on. In honor of its 50th anniversary, this issue’s Headphone Jack is traveling back in time.
Bob Dylan, who made a surprise appearance at the festival, is a personal favorite of mine, and after you try “Mr. Tambourine Man,” you’ll see why. According to Rolling Stone, the dreamy song, contrary to popular belief, is not about a happy drug trip, but is actually the result of a vivid image of folk musician Bruce Langhorne playing a tambourine. In the recording, Langhorne makes an appearance on guitar.
Of course, if you want a more upbeat song but still crave Dylan’s voice, press play on the nostalgia and listen to “Like a Rolling Stone.”
While we are on the topic of Dylan, I have to mention “Blowing in the Wind.” Every once in a while, a cover is so good you question if that artist wrote the original. This is the case for Peter, Paul and Mary’s cover of “Blowing in the Wind.”
The lyric that perhaps hits home the most comes at the end of verse three when the song asks “Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows/ that too many people have died?” According to Lyric Genius, this is repeatedly used as a reference to the Vietnam War and even Truman’s decision to bomb Japan. However, today I feel it has a new meaning as more and more mass shootings occur while people resist talk of stricter gun laws.
Unlike “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Yes’ famous song “Roundabout” was at least partially written while singer Jon Anderson was smoking marijuana, the singer reportedly told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. This little factoid makes sense, considering the mystical journey the song depicts.
While it’s not my favorite song on this list, the fact that Yes’ 1975 performance drew in one of the largest paid crowds to the festival and the sheer uniqueness of the song makes it worth mentioning.
The Who also drew in one of the biggest paid crowds to Edwardsville in 1971. When browsing their songs, my ears perked up at “Won’t Get Fooled Again”’s catchy chorus. Yes, it makes me question my activism when it says “Meet the new boss/ same as the old boss,” forcing me to ask myself the question, “Will my resistance make things get any better, or will the changes I seek just result in me being fooled again?”
Chicago’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” once again struck a chord with me, even though I may not like to admit it. Like any good breakup song, it throws you into the feels even if you feel like you are in a steady place.
We have all struggled with questioning if a breakup was the right thing no matter how many signs say it was. However, once someone better comes along, those questions fade. I sure hope the author of this song found an upgrade.
This Headphone Jack wouldn’t be complete without the late, great Janis Joplin and her hit “Me and Bobby McGee.” If it doesn’t sound familiar, just look at the chorus.
For those needing a break from the rigors of life, “Ripple” by The Grateful Dead is very soothing. It’s not what one would expect from a band with a fan base who proudly call themselves Dead Heads, and by the end it seems as if the whole world is having a “Buy the World a Coke” moment with everyone singing the “la da das” in unison.
And finally, it would be sacrilegious to not include “Hotel California” on this list. The Eagles traveled to Edwardsville in 1975, a couple of years before the song won a Grammy award for Record of the Year, according to ABC News.
The subject of the song is constantly up for debate, with some believing it describes the struggles of addiction and others taking the lyric “This could be heaven or this could be Hell” to be a verbatim statement of the meaning. Band member John Henley reportedly explained the song to be commentary on American self-indulgence.
“We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest,” Henley told Rolling Stone. “‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in L.A.”
Regardless of what interpretation one chooses to believe, the best songs are often those that spark questions in the listeners. Perhaps that’s why so many of these artists drew large crowds to Edwardsville.