What do you know about music during the Cold War? Not much, you say? Well, once again, The Avid Listener is here to help you fill your brain with handy information. This week we kick off a series by award-winning author Tim Smolko about pop music during the Cold War. These essays are all sneak peaks at a book Tim and Joanna Smolko are publishing with Indiana University Press called Atomic Tunes: The Cold War in American and British Popular Music (due out 2018), a project that recently won the prestigious Hampsong Education Fellowship in American Song from the Society for American Music. We’re absolutely thrilled that IU Press is allowing us to share these excerpts with you!
This essay in particular is about a song performed by the very wholesome Doris Day, a song that portrayed radiation as basically harmless, and maybe even a little sexy. File under “weird but true.”
Here’s a teaser: “Some wars are good. Most are bad. Some are just plain weird. The Cold War was definitely weird, and one of the best ways to grasp its weirdness is to listen to Cold War novelty songs from the 1940s to the 1960s. The oddest of them all may be “Tic Tic Tic” by Doris Day, from 1949. Though Day’s 1956 hit “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” is a bit maudlin, it continues to pull on the heartstrings. Unfortunately “Tic, Tic, Tic,” about a Geiger counter, has not aged well at all. It may just get on your last nerve. Yet this song is interesting and valuable in that it captures the naiveté of Americans in the late 1940s and 1950s regarding the dangers of radioactivity.”
Read the entire essay here. Stay tuned for 3 more essays from Tim about pop music and the Cold War!
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