Perspective | 667 Songs Mention Insurance. How Many Do You Know?
How many insurance songs do you suppose there are? None? Three?
Azlyrics.com lists 667 songs with insurance in the title or the lyrics.
I haven’t listened to them all, but my favorite so far is B.B. King’s Some Help I Don’t Need: “Tell that slick insurance salesman/he’d better write some on himself.”
Runners up: The Life Insurance Song by Meena Kothari, this one in Hindi; and Fat Danny and the Good Tymz Blues Band’s Insurance Song, a walking blues about the stress placed on Danny’s heart by the way his woman has been loving him lately. I should have such problems.
Kim Butler’s Life Insurance Song is built around this snappy riff: “Savings is the ultimate wealth builder.” Despite the handicap, it chugs right along.
A dozen insurers have company songs, which are mostly what you’d expect.
Recommended: a song from Popular Life Insurance Company, lyrics in Bangladeshi, I’d say. The unfortunately-named Efu Life Song is sung by the company’s employees. Exide Life’s similar offering is the most accidentally psychedelic thing I’ve seen since someone spiked the muesli back in 1969.
The worst of the bunch, hands down, is the Life Insurance Song, music by Harold Arlen.
Yes, that Harold Arlen, composer of Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic, Accentuate the Positive, and a long list of other standards. (Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat: “… make you feel all warm and cosy/like you heard an Arlen tune.”)
The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg, no slouch himself. He and Arlen wrote, among many, the songs for the movie The Wizard of Oz (including Over the Rainbow), It’s Only a Paper Moon, and Lydia the Tattooed Lady (“Here’s Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon;/here’s Godiva, but with her pajamas on.”)
Something went spectacularly wrong when Arlen and Harburg combined on the movie Gold Diggers of 1937, which is set at an insurance convention in Atlantic City. It’s one of half-a-dozen Gold Diggers movies made between 1923 and 1938. Busby Berkeley’s choreography is a highlight of these musical extravaganzas, which were intended to offset the miseries endured in that other GD — the Great Depression.
The movie has insurers whooping it up at a political-style convention. Somewhat like RIMS, but in black and white. One afternoon, all the insurers in the hall stand and sing “The Life Insurance Song.” It goes like this:
“You’ll get pie in the sky/when you die, die die,/if you buy, buy, buy/life insurance.”
Yup. Die, die, die.
“Lilies will adorn you./Relatives’ll haunt you./They’ll be in the gravy,/when you’re in the grave.”
Hands up, all those in the life sector who’ll be singing that little ditty to potential clients.
We conclude this musical review with a focus on the business aspects of song writing.
Sammy Cahn, one of Arlen’s few peers, wrote High Hopes and My Kind of Town. He was known as “Sinatra’s personal lyricist.” Freelancer Cahn was asked “Which comes first, the words or the music?”
“First,” he replied, “comes the phone call.” &