These timeless songs about man’s best friend make the ultimate soundtrack for a road trip with your pooch
By the Get Leashed Toronto Team
“Mr. Bojangles” was first recorded by the country music artist Jerry Jeff Walker in 1968, and has been covered by distinguished artists as varied as Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, and Neil Diamond. The song tells the tale of a New Orleans street performer who despite his own heavy story could still dance the soft shoe (“He’d jump so high, he’d jump so high, then lightly touch down”). Despite old age, homelessness, and imprisonment, however, what finally brings Bojangles to tears is the memory of his dog and traveling partner of 15 years who “up and died” 20 years ago, leaving the old man to travel this earth on his own.
Arcade Fire’s album, Funeral, was voted one of the top albums of the 2000s by NME, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Q among other musical mags. Within this impressive collection of tracks is the standout song “Neighborhood # 2 (Laïka).” Over a hypnotic baseline, the Canadian band tells the story of Alexander, who is out on a “great adventure.” According to Win Butler, the band’s lead vocalist, Alexander is on a journey that is for the “good of the neighborhood,” but will ultimately bring him to his death. This is where the name “Laïka” lends its tragic history. Laïka (Russian for “Barker”) was a husky-terrier mix who was sent into space by the Russian space program. Even though she was the first living creature to orbit the Earth, unlike human cosmonauts, Laïka wasn’t given adequate provisions and died. According to Butler, “It’s a great story about a dog being the first living creature in space. Doing this spectacular thing, but not having food and watching itself fall back into the earth.” What a sacrifice!
Is there anything Dolly Parton can’t do? When she’s not writing hit songs for some of the most famous movies of all time, and lyrics for pop stars who lack her writing abilities, she can also compose heartfelt songs about some of the most important pets in her lives. Sure, she ate squirrels as a kid, but she also loved her dog, and “Cracker Jack” is about her childhood puppy, the namesake of the song. With lines like, “He wasn’t much to look at, but he looked alright to me,” the song is true Dolly in all its sentimental awesomeness. Dolly performed the song on The Dolly Show in 1976, and it’s just as golden today, much like the timeless songstress herself.
When the song “Martha My Dear” appeared on the Beatles’ White Album, fans of the band thought it was actually about Paul McCartney’s love interest and fiancée at the time, Jane Asher, who would break off the engagement to the rock star that same year (1968). It’s easy to see why lyrics like “Hold your head up, you silly girl, look what you’ve done” could be misleading, but McCartney actually wrote the song about his first pet, an old English Sheepdog named Martha. Somehow that’s just slightly more heartbreaking in its own way.
Before the famous trio even start singing “Blue” on their 1964 album In Concert, Peter informs the crowd: “We’d like to sing a children’s song for you now, that’s unique. It’s the only children’s song that we’ve ever encountered that contains all three of the basic elements of every single children’s song. The first element is simplicity, so that the child can understand the song. The second element is pathos, to prepare the child for later traumatic experiences…. And the third element is repetition, to give the child a false sense of security.” As it turns out, even with time under our belts and maturity on our side, we couldn’t really ask for more from a song today.