Music is the ultimate way to express personal ideas, emotions and experiences. Traveling is the ultimate way to widen your knowledge of unfamiliar places. We are combining the two here for the ultimate in learning experiences. Put your headphones on, let’s take a trip.
We are going to Pittsburgh. And since you are physically unable to join us for the voyage, we figured it would be a nice gesture to share the tunes of the road. The names and lyrics of these songs may not serve as direct reflections, ideas and emotions of the city. They do however associate with historical information of the Steel City. So read and listen, you might learn something.
Enjoy the tracks and look out for Jonathan Smith’s article next week to hear about our trip.
1. “Hey Nineteen” – Steely Dan
Pittsburgh is obviously renowned for its steel industry, and even though Steely Dan has “steel” in their name, the band has little to do with the actual industry. And when I say little, I mean around 6 inches. The band was named after a dildo, named Dan. In the early 1900’s, Pittsburgh produced 1/3 of the nations steel.
2. “Under the Bridge” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Although the Chili Peppers wrote this 1992 hit with Los Angeles on their minds, I couldn’t help but use this in reference to Pittsburgh being dubbed the “City of Bridges”. With its 446 bridges, Pittsburgh has the most bridges in the United States. In fact, Pittsburgh has 3 more bridges than Venice, Italy – who once held the nickname “City of Bridges”.
3. “Cadillac on 22’s” – David Banner
The reference is in the number here. David Banner is bragging about the size of the rims on his Cadillac, which are 22 inches by the way. 22 is also a relevant number in the Steel City, as Pittsburgh is the 22nd largest urban area in the US.
4. “Sloop John B”– The Beach Boys
Crossing over a bridge usually means traveling across water. Although the waterways in Pittsburgh are freshwater, this Beach Boys song reflects on one of Pittsburgh’s earliest industries. Sloop John B is a song about a boat, and following the Revolutionary War, Pittsburgh became one of the industry leaders in boat building for the early settlers.
5. “Down by the River” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Rivers that is. Pittsburgh is surrounded by the Allegheny River from the northeast and Monongahela River from the southeast. The confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers form the Ohio River. The Downtown area between the rivers is known as the Golden Triangle.
6. “Rain”– The Beatles
Due to its position on the windward side of the Allegheny Mountains, Pittsburgh receives heavier precipitation than cities located farther to the west. I felt obligated to throw a Beatles song in here, and this B-side classic fits perfect. Ringo kills it in this video by the way.
7. “Mr. Roboto” – Styx
No, Pittsburgh is not home to the robot dance. It is however a hub for technological industries such as robotics. Following World War II, the city launched a revitalization project known as the “Renaissance”. This project shifted the city’s economic base from the steel industry to industries such as education, healthcare, medicine and other technologies. This regeneration was a significant reason President Barack Obama selected Pittsburgh as the host city for the 2009 G-20 Summit.
8. “Seven” – Army of the Pharaoh’s
I had a difficult time finding a song to fit this category. I had never actually heard of the 2007 song titled “Seven” by Army of the Pharaoh’s (actually from Philadelphia), but I liked it and it seemed fitting. Anyways, In 2009 Forbes ranked Pittsburgh the 7th safest city in terms of violent crimes. It is also ranked the #2 city in America where you may find yourself being “hugged” by a complete stranger. Obviously Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t fit in the “stranger” demographic. Ok, I made that stat up.
9. “Black & Yellow” – Wiz Khalifa
Although it’s technically “black and gold”, all three of the professional sports teams in Pittsburgh wear these colors on their uniforms. Wiz Khalifa, who is actually a Pittsburgh native, is a rising star in the hip-hop world. I highly recommend checking his album out.
10. “I’m a Terrible Person” – Rooney
Talk about two birds with one stone. This Rooney hit teaches two lessons in Pittsburgh Steelers history. The “Terrible Towel” has been a Steelers fan symbol for decades. The towel was created in 1975 by Steelers radio broadcaster Myron Cope. Designed as an inexpensive advertising gimmick, the “Terrible Towel” has come to be known as “arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team”. Rooney(band’s name), is also the last name of family that owns the Steelers franchise. Random fact: in 1933 Art Rooney (Steelers founder) paid the required $2,500 NFL franchise entrance fee after he made a parley of long shot bets at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
11. “Loser” – Beck
The Pittsburgh Pirates. All that needs to be said.
12. “Open Arms” – Journey
Mario Lemieux is a legend in the Steel City. He is also a very nice guy. The Pittsburgh Penguins part owner has a tradition of opening his home to young Penguins stars such as Marc-André Fleury and Sidney Crosby until they settle into the Pittsburgh area. Way-to-go Mario!
13. “Iron Man” – Black Sabbath
Pittsburgh has a quite the variety of professional sports teams. The only major sport they are missing is professional basketball. The Pittsburgh Ironmen however, were a charter member of the Basketball Association of America (a forerunner of the National Basketball Association). They ended their only season in the BAA in 1946-47 with a record of 15-45, finishing in fifth and last place in the Western Division and worst overall in the league. Safe to say 1946 and 1947 were the “golden years” of basketball in Pittsburgh.
14. “In My Neighborhood” – Spice 1
I highly doubt rapper Spice 1 and Mr. Rodgers grew up in the same neighborhood. No racial speculation when I say this, it is actually rather factual. Spice 1 grew up on the streets of California. Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mister Rogers from the well-known children’s program Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, grew up on the streets of Pittsburgh. Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was filmed at WQED, the first public television station in the United States, right in the middle of Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. In all seriousness, that show used to creep me out.
15. “Smile for me now” – Scarface – feat. Tupac and Johnny P
The first Internet emoticon (the smiley) was created by Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. Scott’s “smiley” face emoticon symbol originated on September 19th, 1982. Tupac was killed on September 13th. 1996. Coincidence? Nope, I was just trying to find a way to give Tupac the credit.
16. “Anticipation” – Carly Simon
I had to do some digging to find this one. From the 1970’s into the early 1980’s, the song “Anticipation” by Carly Simon was used in its advertising for Heinz Ketchup. “Anticipation”, was in reference to the ketchup coming out of a glass bottle slowly. This is very accurate. A brand of the H.J. Heinz Company, Heinz Tomato Ketchup was released in 1876. H.J. Heinz world headquarters are in Pittsburgh. Here is one of the commercials. 1979 commercial
17. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson
Somehow, Michael Jackson found his way on our road mix, and it wasn’t his music that put him on the list. Pittsburgh native and world renown printmaker, filmmaker and visual art extraordinaire Andy Warhol, created this silk-screened portrait of the famous pop icon. Created in1984, Warhol’s piece titled “Thriller Painting”, was auctioned off and sold to the winning bid of $278,000. Following Jackson’s surprising death in 2009, the painting was re-sold for $812,500.