Food has provided creative inspiration across the ages and musicians aren't immune, whether they're driven by nostalgia, reminiscing about the comforting flavors of home, or using food as a euphemism or double entendre to deliver a message (or just to be cute). We've listed some good ones below. Read the extended list at cltampa.com/music. Big ups to the CL Music Team's valued input on this tasty project.
"Beans and Cornbread," Louis Jordan, 1949
A jump blues single with a simple set of verses about the battle between two staple side dishes: "Beans and Cornbread had a fight / Beans knocked Cornbread out of sight / Cornbread said, 'Now that's alright / Meet me on the corner tomorrow night.'"
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," Hank Williams, 1952
A rolling country ode to Creole with lines like "Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and file gumbo, 'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma cher amio." Covered most famously by The Carpenters.
Tom Glazer, "On Top of Spaghetti," 1963
A children's folk ballad set to "On Top of Old Smokey" that tracks the adventures of a runaway meatball knocked from a pile of spaghetti after somebody sneezed (and obviously didn't cover their mouth, yuck, never thought about that, did ya?).
"A Taste of Honey," Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, 1964
The opening track on Alpert's 1964 food-themed album, Whipped Cream and Other Delights. The iconic album cover (pictured right) is good enough to eat. Or at least lick.
"Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," Pink Floyd, 1970
Floyd serves an epic three-course feast of psychedelic instrumental sonicscapes marked by the "found sound" mutterings of roadie Alan Stiles as he makes his breakfast. All of Alan's actions are documented in sound — including the vigorous and repulsive gulping and slurping sounds he makes eating cereal — though at least his distracting racket fades in and out.
"I Like Food," Descendents, 1980
Loud, punk- to-the-point punchy with bark-shouted lyrics: "I like food, food tastes good! I like food, food tastes good! Juicy burgers, greasy fries, turkey legs and raw fish eyes, teenage girls, with ketchup too! Get out of my way, or I'll eat you!"
"Everytime I Eat Vegetables, It Makes Me Think Of You," The Ramones, 1983
An indelicate punk clearly not really about the veggies you eat. "She had a very bad affair / With some cat from Hiroshima / She turned into a head of lettuce / She eats Thorazine in her Farina."
"Eat It" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, 1984
Because I can't make a list about food songs without at least mentioning Weird Al's spoof of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
"40s Theme," Umphrey's McGee, originally recorded by Ali Baba's Tahini in 1998
A prog-Southern fried funky Zappa-shaded jam song about eating, drinking 40's, and kicking it with your friends and fam. "You got your barbecue sauce and your chicken wings / throw it your deep fryer / burning chili set your heart on fire. You got real soul, eating chickens by the whole, make a stop at that liquor store, and pick me up a couple of 40's"
"Chocolate Jesus," Tom Waits, 1999
The idiosyncratic artist's banjo-rambling megaphone-delivered narrative about his favorite "immaculate confection" and what he prefers to going to church on Sunday morning: "Well it's the only thing that can pick me up / Better than a cup of gold, see only a chocolate Jesus can satisfy my soul."
"Ho Cake," JJ Grey & Mofro, 2001
A fast and funky blues number with Grey spouting off about the food of his rural Jacksonville-area home in a backwoods-gruff drawl, opening, "My Granny makes the best cracklin' ho cake / it tastes so good I can't wait to dip my plate" and listing off some of her specialties before warning possessively, "Stick ya hands near my plate, you'll draw back a nub!"
"Where'd the Cheese Go?" Ween, 2002
Ween was once hired to produce a jingle for Pizza Hut's "Insider," a pie with cheese hidden in the crust. Sadly, Pizza Hut didn't like any of the six tunes Ween submitted, forced them to do weeks of re-writes, then went with someone else's idea entirely. The band went ahead and released the rejected jingle anyway, which starts cute and boppy and devolves at the arrival of an angry pizza eater, who demands in a half-speed drawl, "Where'd the mothafuckin' cheese go at?"
"Milkshake," Kelis, 2003
The Neptunes-produced R&B dance tune is a confident woman's outcry about her ... well, she's claimed it's about that "special something" every woman has, but you can take the double entendre about her milkshake — which brings all the boys to the yard – any way you want. "I can teach you, but I'd have to charge."
"Soulfood Man," Mike Gordon 2006
A spacey, twangy cow funk number off the Phish bassist's debut solo album that showcases his crazy vocal range (from falsetto to baritone) in a tale about a soulfood-loving musician who's learned a mythic guitar technique that, if wielded, would cause the soulfood shack where he played to explode, "And there wouldn't be rice and beans / And Sonny couldn't bring on the bowl full of collard greens / You've got to understand: he's a soulfood man." Ultimately, he can't perform without a bucket of soulfood food to go, so he checks his special talent at the door.
"Chicken Fried," Zac Brown Band, 2006/08
The band's No. 1 Country Billboard hit is about the simple luxuries of home and more nostalgia waxing on the foods they love most and that take them to that happy place. "You know I like my chicken fried, a cold beer on a Friday night ... Well, I was raised up, beneath the shade of a Georgia pine, and that's home, you know / Sweet tea, pecan pie and homemade wine, where the peaches grow."
"Banana Pudding," Southern Culture on the Skids, 2006
A very recipe-specific (and hilarious) country rock barn burner about a craving for day-old banana pudding. "It takes a little time to develop the flavor / To soak it all up with your vanilla wafer / So get out your bowl and your wooden spoon /'Cause I can smell your pudding clean across this room."
"Horchata," Vampire Weekend, 2009
With a mouthful for a refrain — "In December drinking horchata, I'd look psychotic in a balaclava" — "Horchata" seems an unlikely first single. But the kids dig it, even if half of them are blissfully clueless as to what they're singing about. For the non-literary sect (myself included before this writing), horchata is a milky dairy-free beverage usually made of rice, almonds, cinnamon and sugar, traditional in Spain, Mexico and Latin America. Balaclava is a fancy word for a ski mask.
"Minestrone," Fujiya & Miyagi, 2011
The UK Kraut rock/electro-funk trio builds a menacing tone with ominous organ notes and a persistent bass groove as sighed-spoken vocals tell a story about a man's encounter with Mephistopheles, who carries a thermos flask full of cursed soup — "He leaned forward, and he whispered softly to me, he told me what the flavor what, 'minestrone.'"
"Ropa Vieja," Magadog, 2011
A mostly instrumental Latin-and-rocksteady fused track off the local ska outfit's new LP in tribute to the Cuban dish familiar to any area folks who've lived here long enough. Possibly they're eating it at "La Teresita," both a local Cuban restaurant staple, and the name of the track that comes directly before. Coincidence? I think not ...
10 MORE FOOD-CENTRIC TRACKS
"Fish and Bread," Tribal Style
"Kookies." MF DOOM (and the whole MM .. Food album)
"Beautiful Food," Edan
"Mama's Fried Potatoes," The Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band
"Senegal Fast Food," Amadou and Miriam
"Eat Steak," The Reverent Horton Heat
"Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," Rufus Wainwright
"Pork Soda," Primus
"Banana Pancakes," Jack Johnson
"Feed Me" from the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack
"Cheeseburger," Gang of Four
"Cheeseburger in Paradise," Jimmy Buffett