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Baltimore: A muse for many
Baltimore has been many a musician's muse over the years.
Today, the indie rock group Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks release their latest album, Real Emotional Trash. Malkmus was the primary singer and songwriter for the indie rock band Pavement until they split in the late '90s. Based in Portland, Ore., the band looked to the East Coast for the title to its new single, "Baltimore."
The word "Baltimore" has popped up in plenty of songs. But unlike some other cities - New York with Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," San Francisco with Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" - Baltimore doesn't have an anthem, per se.
Culturally speaking, Baltimore is better known for the work of John Waters and for the TV show The Wire than one particular song. The Wire was the inspiration for the Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks' single, drummer Janet Weiss told the Web site PaperThinWalls.com.
To mark the release of the newest song named "Baltimore," we ranked 10 songs with the word "Baltimore" in their title.
Here they are - the good, the bad and the cheesy:
1. "Baltimore" by Randy Newman
The sarcastic single "Short People" from Little People made Newman famous and his numerous songs include another city's adopted anthem, "I Love L.A." But the album track "Baltimore" more seriously depicts a dying city in the late '70s, complete with a "beat up little seagull/on a marble stair." Melancholy verses with a hypnotic piano riff give way to an upbeat, disco-like chorus. Even better: Members of the Eagles provide background harmonies.
2. "Streets of Baltimore" by Gram Parsons
With help from backing singer Emmylou Harris, Parsons provides the most poignant version of this classic song by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard. Fiddles and a pedal steel cry for the main character, who loses his woman to the busy streets and bright lights of Baltimore.
3. "Bmore Banga" by Darkroom Productions featuring Amadaye and DOG
Each of the local MCs featured on the song decided separately they wanted to rap about Baltimore. When they heard the beat - a Baltimore club beat slowed down - everything just clicked, said producer Juan Donovan Bell. This song has brutally honest and stinging lyrics like, "They knew we was hopeless/they told us believe/put it on the benches/they know we ain't read." And Darkroom Productions delivers a backing track that does the song title justice: Piano runs trickle down over thick, bass-heavy beats.
4. "Raining in Baltimore" by Counting Crows
Though not one of the band's best songs, this piano ballad by Baltimore native Adam Duritz has its moments. Featured on their debut album, it has a bare-bones feel, with no more than Duritz's voice, a piano and an accordion.
5. "Baltimore" by Among Wolves
Singer/songwriter Billy Tiedeken wrote this song soon after he moved to Baltimore from New Jersey. Though none of the lyrics directly reference Mobtown, the Beach Boys-like vocal and musical arrangements make it a sweeping, almost epic piece. About a dozen instruments (including a theremin) and multiple vocal harmonies come together in a giant swell near the end, then give way to gentle piano plinks.
6. "Baltimore" by The Extra Glenns
Singer John Darnielle invokes Baltimore with a chain link fence, a guard dog, airplanes and beaches in his distinct, nasally voice. The chorus: "In Baltimore/You will find what you've been waiting for." We couldn't agree more.
7. "Baltimore"by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Laced with fuzzy, atmospheric guitar riffs, this three-part track is reminiscent of the '70s. One of the song's climaxes comes when Malkmus name-checks Charm City: "I'm in love with a soldier from Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore!"
8. "Baltimore" by Tori Amos
Amos recorded this awesomely bad tune at the age of 16 for a contest. Back then, she was known as Myra Ellen Amos and kicked around the suburbs of Washington. Her first single, it featured the lines "Familiar places, smiling faces/I'm proud to say I'm a Baltimorean." Though it won the contest and earned her a mayoral citation, the song would be better suited on a late '70s sitcom or a Chamber of Commerce promotion. Get in on it.
9. "Streets of Baltimore" by O'Malley's March
It's hard not to chuckle after hearing this traditional Irish number, complete with pan flute and feigned Irish accent. If it were played live in the right bar after a few rounds, mugs full of Guinness would be raised in honor of historical Irish immigrants. In most other settings, this song, written by the governor, might be greeted with subtle snickering.
10. "A Baltimore Love Thing" by 50 Cent
Meh. Why did Fiddy bother to make a video for this song in the first place? It's more of a yawner than a banger.