Everybody needs a little help sometimes to seal the deal.

August 14, 2009

What is it about doctors that make them such good fodder for songwriters? Their abilities to provide medicinal or psychiatric help? The tribal doctors with strange practices? The white lab coats? The fact that trying to rhyme something with “PhD” is always going to pose a challenge?

I don’t know. I’ve never been a big fan of doctors. Or dentists. They like to tell me what I’m not doing right. It’s never a good self esteem exercise to visit a doctor. Or a dentist.

By the way, you suppose that dentists get offended there aren’t as many songs written about them? I think there are more songs about novocaine than there are about dentists, come to think of it. That’s gotta suck for dentists.

Anyway, my personal feelings, doctors provide great inspiration for popular music — if not in songs, then certainly in stage names (I’m looking your way, John and Dre). For this month’s Friday Five, we take a look at five solid rock ‘n’ roll doctors.


The Friday Five
The Doctors Are In

Aretha Franklin – Dr. Feelgood (Love is a Serious Business)
Well, what? You didn’t think I was gonna post that f*cking Motley Crue song did you? Aretha’s 1967 album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, is probably her best and is far more renowned for carrying “Respect,” but from a soul standpoint, it’s hard to argue there’s anything on the album better than this. The song moves along at a wonderfully soulful trudge, with a blissed-out organ wailing away behind the piano, bass, drums and horns. Dr. Feelgood doesn’t appear to be a licensed practitioner, but someone who can makes his lady feel particularly good in the morning, which… let’s face it, can be like brain surgery sometimes.

The Beatles  – Doctor Robert
Who the actual Doctor Robert has never been completely verified — speculation holds that it’s about a guy named Dr. Robert Freymann, a New York practitioner that supplied a lot of celebrities with amphetamines. John Lennon also said it’s an autobiographical song, since he was the band’s pill carrier in the early days. Regardless, the song is a not-so-subtle appreciation of someone who can prescribe the goods to leave a mid-1960s rock and roll star “feeling fine.” In terms of Beatles songs, it’s probably not their best, but that said, it’s still a pretty cool little tune and blends into their best album, Revolver, quite nicely.

Crowded House – Dr. Livingstone
The Crowdies cut this track back in 1989, and while it bubbled up on a B-side to a limited edition single here and there, it finally got a proper showing 10 years later on the band’s fabulous odds-and-ends post-mortem release, Afterglow. Livingstone doesn’t sound like a guy you’d go to visit in a suburban office, but instead a strange interloper in Africa. No idea what this song’s point is, really, but whatever the trouble may be, the good doctor holds survival in his hands.

Kula Shaker – Dr. Kitt
Dr. Kitt, like Dr. Livingstone, doesn’t seem to be the suburban office type, but unlike Dr. Livingstone, he seems a little more prone to cure whatever storm-induced ills befall his patients. Also a hell of a lot more philosophical — dude doesn’t seem to leave anything to chance. But why would Kula Shaker do a song about anything less cosmic? This psychedelic doodle is actually one of the finest and most underrated on Kula’s 2007 comeback album, Strangefolk.

Steely Dan – Doctor Wu
I admit that while I’m an admirer of Steely Dan’s lyrical abilities, I’m usually almost completely in the dark when it comes to understanding what the hell they’re going on about. For years I’ve listened to this song thinking it’s about a girl named Katy who two-times the narrator, and Doctor Wu is like a therapist that ends up being the dude Katy’s two-timing with. Seemed simple enough? Then I read an interview with Fagen in which he said “Doctor Wu” is just the personification of a dope habit. Of course. Why would I think the song would make any common sense in the first place? Nevertheless, a fantastic pull from the oft-overlooked 1975 album, Katy Lied.

And as a bonus for all you dear readers, I realize I’ve been a little lax in posting lately, so here’s ONE MORE fabulous song about a doctor.

David Seville – Witch Doctor
Give it another listen. It’s a lot of fun.

One comment

  1. Thank you! I’ve been looking for Witch Doctor for years!

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