Notes on Popular Culture: The Pop Song Pantheon #5

Posted by Michael Borshuk On 1:14 PM
The Pop Song Pantheon, Vol. 5



"How Deep Is Your Love?" by The Bee Gees (1977)

This song is likely to get lost in the gloss of the phenomenon that sounded its release: white-suited, hip-shaking John Travolta and the cinematic ascendancy of disco. Moreover, it's likely not the first tune by this group that most people would put on their one-must-have-song-by-an-artist list. "Jive Talking" or "Staying Alive" or "Night Fever" likely would earn that honor for most listeners, in their kitschy, can't-miss invitations to dance ironically as though it's the late 1970s all over again. I prefer this ballad, likely the prettiest song that Barry Gibb ever composed. Dismiss this tune as sonic fromage, the 45 rpm equivalent of a Frank Frazetta-muralled van or an orange deep shag carpet or a velour shirt? Think again. Check out the stripped down covers recorded more recently by The Bird and the Bee (on 2007's Please Clap Your Hands) and The Bad Plus with Wendy Lewis (on 2008's For All I Care) and you'll recall what a lush, gorgeous melody this song features at its very center.

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MICHAEL BORSHUK is Associate Professor of African American Literature at Texas Tech University. He is the author of SWINGING THE VERNACULAR: JAZZ AND AFRICAN AMERICAN MODERNIST LITERATURE (Routledge, 2006), and numerous essays, reviews, and encyclopedia entries on African American literature, American modernism, and music. For ten years, from 1999 to 2009, he wrote on jazz regularly for CODA MAGAZINE. His fiction has appeared in ANTIGONISH REVIEW, DALHOUSIE REVIEW, ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY, SHORT STORY, and 34TH PARALLEL.

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