11th March 2005
Widely reported in the British press has been a ‘survey’ of people’s choice of song to be played at their funeral. As with many ‘surveys’ of this kind the actual basis is extremely thin – it is a result of a poll by digital TV channel Music Choice (of which I have never heard). So the survey group actually consisted of people who have chosen to watch a particular music channel which no doubt broadcasts a particular genre of music. This might well account that the for the fact that the Top 10 British and European songs contain not a single non-white artist!
It would be foolish therefore to take much notice of this ‘survey’ and it is typical that its coverage (an example from The Scotsman may be found at http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=261452005o ) should concentrate on national differences supposedly revealed by the survey. Having said which there is one stand-out entry at number 3 in the British list – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle. I cannot help but be drawn into speculation by this extraordinary revelation. It seems to me to appeal to two traits which British people like to see in themselves and regard as both positive and identificatory. The first is of course ‘having a good sense of humour’, able to see the funny side of anything including mortality. The second , much less consciously perhaps, is empiricism, practicality, a refusal to get too spiritual or metaphysical about anything. In its own peculiar way this is a popular endorsement of the phiosophies of Locke and Hume. No enthusiasm. As such it is an indication of how national stereotypes or characteristics continue to play their part in people’s consciousness.
And of course its a fascinating game to play! My own choices? In my headier youth I wanted everyone to sing the Internationale but I realise that as virtually no-one knows the words that would merely be an embarrassment. So I will settle for two songs – Labi Siffre’s So Strong ( lyrics at http://www.lyrix.at/de/text_show/d7a32ce6f4f0af0e59b1a1fa5075a5d6 ), not only a magnificent political song but personal because it was the theme song for a strike with which I was involved at one of the best times of my life, and second Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Jubilee (from Stones in the Road) a song which meant an enormous amount to me when I first hospitalised with depression and still does. I wrote to MCC about this and she was good and kind enough to dedicate the song to me at a concert she was giving in Birmingham – still one of my life’s highlights ( lyrics can be found at http://www.breakoutdesign.com/chapin/silyrics.html#Jubilee ).