What's in a Song

Series produced by Western Folklife Center Media

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The What's in a Song series delves deeper into the stories behind the songs.

The What's in a Song series explores the stories behind a variety of songs, some very familiar, and some relatively unknown. Singers and songwriters describe their sentimental inspirations, such as in "The Man in the Bed" or tell of interesting and far reaching affects the song has had, as in "Don't Laugh at Me."


11 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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Geraldine Barney sings about how she drew strength from the teachings of her Navajo elders when she left the reservation to attend music school in ...

Bought by KSUT


  • Added: Mar 01, 2006
  • Length: 03:08
  • Purchases: 1
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Folklorist Archie Green rediscovers one of America's oldest work songs during a field trip in which he meets an aging mill worker who sings "Factor...

  • Added: Jan 18, 2006
  • Length: 04:41
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Music historian Bill C. Malone recalls his family gathering around their first radio to listen to old country songs like "The Last Letter."

Bought by KUFM - Montana Public Radio, WMPG, and KRCC-FM


  • Added: Dec 16, 2005
  • Length: 04:08
  • Purchases: 3
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Musician Cipriano Vigil describes the myth that inspired the song "La Llorona".

Bought by KZYX, KZYX, KZYX, and KRCC-FM


  • Added: Dec 15, 2005
  • Length: 03:00
  • Purchases: 4
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British pianist Leslie Howard tells the story behind this familiar Scottish classic.

  • Added: Dec 14, 2005
  • Length: 04:37
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Songwriter Dave Alvin describes his song "Man in the Bed" which tells the story of the last day of his father's life.

Bought by KZYX, KUT, New Hampshire Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio, Hearing Voices and more


  • Added: Dec 12, 2005
  • Length: 04:08
  • Purchases: 8
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Ecologist Larry Stevens sings the saga of the Humpback Chubb, a small odd-looking fish that lives at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and which has ...

Bought by KZYX, KZYX, KZYX, New Hampshire Public Radio, and KRCC-FM


  • Added: Dec 05, 2005
  • Length: 04:02
  • Purchases: 5
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Rosalie Sorrels sings about the gardens her two Irish grandmothers used to keep, and how the flowers they grew were a reflection of their very diff...

Bought by WKNO


  • Added: Dec 02, 2005
  • Length: 02:46
  • Purchases: 1
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Curly Musgrave talks about "Escalante Adios" his ballad that gives a cowboy's perspective of the establishment of a national monument in Southern U...

  • Added: Dec 01, 2005
  • Length: 03:39
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Navajo singer Alger Greyeyes sings of the beauty of food and the meaning of a bounty from the earth.

Bought by KUFM - Montana Public Radio, KSJD, KZMU Moab Community Radio, and KRCC-FM


  • Added: Dec 01, 2005
  • Length: 02:47
  • Purchases: 4
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Steve Seskin tells the story of "Don't Laugh at Me," a song that spawned a movement.

Bought by WAMC


  • Added: Jun 27, 2005
  • Length: 03:58
  • Purchases: 1