[Smt-talk] Bach fugues and popular songs

Arnie Cox arnie.cox at oberlin.edu
Sat Mar 13 07:39:35 PST 2010

This doesn't happen to be a recent example, it's not at the beginning  
of the song, it doesn't seem to be a strict Bach quote, and it's not  
a fugue proper, but I just happened upon a Nina Simone recording of  
Love Me Or Leave Me in which she goes into a polyphonic section in  
her piano solo that I imagine many of her fans at the time would have  
heard as Bach-like.  (Perhaps it's an actual quote, of Bach or of  
someone else, but I didn't happen to recognize it.)  She recorded  
this song at least twice (1958, 1966?) and does something similar in  
both versions.  Both are readily available on YouTube.

I'd be interested in what others might know about how this relates to  
other examples around this time and since.  I suppose the Swingle  
Singers and Ian Anderson, each in their own way, represent something  
different in one sense and yet the same in another?

Arnie Cox
Assoc. Prof. of Music Theory
Oberlin Conservatory of Music

On Mar 1, 2010, at 12:20 PM, Murphy, Scott Brandon wrote:

> Dear collective wisdom (with apologies for cross-listing),
> I am curious to know of any recent American popular song (interpret  
> this
> genre label however you would like) that quotes a fugue by J.S.  
> Bach (or
> perhaps another classical composer of fugue) as its introductory  
> material.
> I know of two: Amy Grant's "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" opens by  
> citing,
> then reworking, the beginning of the C-minor fugue of WTC I, and  
> the much
> more recent "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga, in which the music video  
> opens with
> a little (diegetic) bit of the beginning of the B-minor fugue from  
> WTC I.
> I'm a bit more interested in songs (and fugues, for that matter)  
> that might
> be more familiar to today's average undergraduate music student,  
> but I'm
> open to anything at this point.
> Thanks in advance, and happy March,
> -Scott
> -- 
> Scott Murphy
> Associate Professor of Music Theory
> University of Kansas School of Music
> smurphy at ku.edu
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