Food is a ubiquitous topic in popular music, both explicitly and as metaphor. The tasty subject matter makes for a slightly different feel for this June’s “Food + Agriculture” playlist than previous months. There’s more country and folk music than we’ve included before, from Hank Williams to The Highwomen. Eating and farming are prevalent themes in children’s music, which we didn’t include, and parody (and almost parody) songs, which we did. “Weird Al” Yankovic is making his Experience Playlist debut.
Like June’s stories, the mix progresses loosely from farm to table. We start with “Maggie’s Farm,” the song that, controversially, took Bob Dylan electric in 1965. “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells pairs well with our story about farmers using companion plants, including crimson clover, to trap carbon in the soil and fight climate change. Carole King’s “Bitter with the Sweet” recalls this piece about the changing spice industry. And “Holy Cow,” from Rod Stewart and Booker T. & the MG’s, is appropriate background music for Tracy Staedter’s fascinating look at a floating cow farm in The Netherlands.
From there, the songs transition into odes to specific foods, including “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” by Hank Williams; “Vegetables” by the Beach Boys; and “Beans and Cornbread” by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. Two songs, from James Brown and The Supremes, respectively, involve popcorn; it’s just that good.
We cap it off with a batch of songs about an activity many of us are tentatively venturing back into: eating and drinking together. Longing for “a house with a crowded table,” as the Highwomen sing, is a common feeling these days — one that has inspired people to get creative with Zoom dinners and celebrations. And once going to bars is safe again, better-tasting non-alcoholic beer will make “Five O’ Clock Somewhere” a good time even for the sober among us.
Listen to the playlist as you read this month’s stories about food and agriculture.