How I Got Culture
By David Henderson
Sarah Skwire recently wrote an article, “The Awesome Social Value of the Chiquita Banana Song,” in which she actually made the Chiquita banana song fascinating. An excerpt sums up why she writes about such things:
I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about pop culture, and persuading people that it should be taken seriously as an art form and as an object of historical study. Talking to my dad this weekend reminded me that something as apparently trivial as the jingle for a banana commercial can open a window into history, economics, and culture.
Her piece reminded me of a short section I wrote in my book The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey. In a chapter titled “The Joy of Capitalism,” I ended with this section, subtitled “How I Got Culture:”
A stereotype that many intellectuals hold strongly is that television and radio are the enemies of culture. Yet, popular television and radio shows gave me my earliest experience of classical music. I, like most other Americans over age 45, first heard Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” as the theme song to the radio program, and later the television show, “The Lone Ranger.” When my brother Paul and I used to hear it on the radio, we would gallop around the house, hitting our own backsides with our hands to spur on our imaginary horses, which is one reason I will never forget the “William Tell Overture.” Of course, it wasn’t until I was in college that I bought the record and heard the whole overture, but I never would have been interested in it had it not been for the radio and TV programs.
Similarly, my interest in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” was first piqued by a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs, to the tune of Rossini’s opera, sings:
Let me cut your mop,
Let me save your crop,
Ooooh, you’re next.
Yoouur’e so next.