Last week we helped stoke the media firestorm that exploded when Bette Midler sang her signature song, "Wind Beneath My Wings," at the Oscars. It occurred to us that other popular songs over the years have ignited similarly strong feelings of love or hate, and we asked readers to participate in our pop culture smackdown of five hugely successful tunes. We received an outpouring of fierce support or strong denunciation for the following songs:
Love: I have a CD of Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessions, which includes an 8-minute 49-second version of "Stairway to Heaven." The guitar work on this song is awesome. I love how it starts out slow and slowly builds to a haunting music crescendo ending with "and she's climbing the stairway to heaven!" The way "heaven" is broken into two syllables always leaves me emotionally drained.
-- Jeff Hack, San Jose
Hate: I hate "Don't Stop Believin' " so much. The lyrics are supposed to be inspiring, but they're annoying, and the way the song is arranged, it makes my body hurt all over. However, I can't escape the song when it comes on the radio. There is something about the song that gets you hooked. I even feel the hit version by the cast of TV's "Glee" is much better than Journey's version. You can at least listen to it.
-- Joel Hack, San Jose
Love: "Wind Beneath My Wings" has always been one of my favorite songs. It was specifically written for the soundtrack of the movie "Beaches." Within the context of the movie, it is very fitting. Even outside the context of the movie, the message I've always gotten from it is the acknowledgment that we can never get through life alone and that we need others to lift us up as we try to do the same to others.
-- Lynne Johnson, San Jose
Hate: To me, all are painful earwigs that stay in my head when I hear them. My friends are always surprised that I really despise "Don't Stop Believing," especially because I grew up in San Francisco during the time that song was a hit. (Steve) Perry's whiny voice was just too much.
-- Marie O'Riordan, San Carlos
Love: I remember the first time that I heard "Wind Beneath My Wings." My wife and I were watching the movie "Beaches," starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. The movie was about two women who were lifelong friends. Midler's character became famous. Hershey's character was always there to support the famous one. Hershey's character was diagnosed with cancer and dying. Midler aborted a concert and traveled to be with Hershey. When I saw the movie I was in treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I was bald and very weak due to chemotherapy. I cried and cried during that song. When I finally pulled myself together, I said to my wife, "I don't want to be anybody's hero. I just want to live." I cried again while listening to Midler sing the song during the Oscars.
-- Gil Mitchell, Morgan Hill (Mitchell's last treatment was August 7, 1991. "Life is good," he says.)
Hate: In order of "creepy-skin-crawling-ness" (CSCN) we have: 1) "Ebony and Ivory," which has you overdose on schmaltz in 3 minutes 48 seconds. 2) "Copacabana," which has an interesting story in a song but is "Macarena"-lite; 3) "Wind Beneath My Wings": dead horse issues here; dead horse wins! 4) "Don't Stop Believing": the gyms have co-opted this song. And the least offensive song is "Stairway to Heaven." Since its release, it has had time to mellow and to have a plethora of other songs released to soften the CSCN factor in our collective consciousness. Of these five, "Stairway" is the only one that this 61-year-old grandmother will willingly listen to and not immediately change the station.
-- Linda Hoover, Livermore