Of Songs and Slogans.

A New Train Music-Video. There are lots of railroad songs, and no wonder. There’s a romance to trains and train travel that has inspired songwriters for a hundred years. The first one I remember is “Chattanooga Choo Choo” which appeared in 1941. The Glen Miller recording was and probably still is the most popular version of the song.
 
I was in an a cappella singing group in college and one of the songs in our repertoire was a ditty titled “My Cutie’s Due on the 2:22 Today.” (Surely you remember that one!)
 
Then, of course, there’s “The City of New Orleans” which has become a classic, perhaps even the classic train song. It was written by Steve Goodman and has been recorded by a whole host of great artists, including Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson. A particular favorite of mine is the version performed by the incomparable Blue Grass group, Seldom Scene.
 

 But now there’s a new entry in the category which I found to be quite unlike any of those others. It’s a music-video, actually, called “Empire Builder”, and I found it to be quite extraordinary. Laura Gibson is the artist who actually rode Train #8, wrote the melody and the lyrics, shot the video, and renders a remarkable, even haunting performance. You can click on this link to view it.
 
Good Deeds Often Gets Punished. I don’t suppose there’s a single state in the Union that doesn’t have an office staffed with people whose function is to promote tourism. Most of those states have adopted slogans after a lot of money was spent on surveys and studies and research. Some are straightforward and obvious. Arizona’s tourism slogan, for example, is The Grand Canyon State. Then there’s Georgia On My Mind, which instantly creates an image of the incomparable Ray Charles … certainly on my mind.
 
Some of the slogans must have made sense to someone sometime somewhere, but seem awfully obscure to me. North Dakota has a one-word slogan: Legendary. Doesn’t that beg further explanation? Then again, maybe that’s the idea—we’ll all head for North Dakota looking for legends.
 
Montana’s slogan—Get Lost—just sounds rude to me. And, there are real political overtones to Texas’—It’s Like a Whole Other Country. After all, at last count, more than 125,000 Texans have signed a petition in support of seceding from the Union.
 
A number of states don’t have any slogan at all—Hawaii is one—and I personally think that’s a good idea. It takes a long time and a lot of money before a slogan begins to penetrate the minds of target audiences. Often, by the time it does, it’s no longer appropriate. Better to focus on attractive ads with arresting headlines they “get” right away.
 
Besides, coming up with a slogan is a thankless task. Ask whoever it was who decided on Rhode Island: Cooler and Warmer. The Providence Journal, that state’s leading newspaper, wanted to know if their readers liked the new slogan. In an on-line poll, 94 percent said “No”. OK, so how about Rhode Island: You’re Welcome!