Saturday Songs and Stories

In one of the countless attempts to get in shape, my friend Riggs and I tried going to the Fitness Center at TCU (Go Frogs!) at like, 5 a.m. when it opened. This lasted… three tries, I think.

Riggs drove a Mercury Marauder, which is somewhere between a muscle car and a cop car. It was one of the best cars I’ve ever sat in–one just felt cool in the leather seats and dark interior. The Marauder was totaled by a drunk undergrad. We can’t prove it, but a yellow Jeep that was across the street from where Riggs’s car was parked disappeared the very day the car was destroyed with yellow paint streaks all over it. Go figure, I suppose.

But I digress. Riggs loves jazz, and I love jazz. He introduced me to a lot, including this song by Frank Sinatra, The Coffee Song.

It has a good Latin beat, and the fun lyric, “They put coffee in the coffee in Brazil,” which I have always found funny. And yet, the question always sits in the back of my mind: is this song racist?

It’s a song about an actual place, and actual people inhabiting that actual place. It’s also a novelty song–meant to be a novelty, and speaks more of Brazil’s coffee surplus rather than making direct claims about Brazil’s culture, people or heritage. Yeah, the politician’s daughter was accused of drinkin’ water, and was fined a great big fifty dollar bill–but fifty bucks was a lot of money to anyone then, and it’s because she was drinking water, not because she was inherently corrupt?

I don’t know. This song walks a line for me, and perhaps others? I don’t want to create controversy where there is none; I do not want to ignore controversy if it is there.

One time at karaoke, I wanted to sing this–they did not have it, but I thought they did, because I selected Brazil in the Frank Sinatra section. They are not the same song. I always post at least two songs in this post, so I’ll close with Pink Martini’s cover of Brazil, which for three years was my happy song. More on that, I suppose, another time!

Note to self for the inevitable Pink Martini post: Storm Large is amazing live and also, China Forbes is amazing on every album she recorded. Keep that in mind, future Arthur.

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