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How long should a pop song be?

To the editor: Casey Rae is right on the money in lamenting the new trend to shorten country music songs by excising instrumental breaks. What Rae doesn't consider is whether country music has been reduced to so much formulaic pap. ("Guitar solos are getting the ax in country music songs," op-ed, May 18)

In 1959, the typical radio-friendly song ran about two and a half minutes. But the next decade brought many fresh innovations to popular music. The 1960s kicked off with country star Marty Robbins "El Paso," which upended the short-song model by running the then-unimaginable length of more than four and a half minutes.

Listeners loved "El Paso," sending it to the top of the pop and country charts. That pivotal hit set the stage for still-longer songs that famously flummoxed radio station managers yet defined the 1960s: "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, and "Hey Jude" by the Beatles.

If contemporary country music were to feature more innovative and interesting fare, listeners might want to hear more than a couple minutes of a song.

Gene Martinez, Orcutt, Calif.

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