DJ team Duck Sauce appear to have achieved global dance floor dominance thanks to their hit “Barbra Streisand,” earning chart slots everywhere from the UK to Australia to South Africa. It’s a catchy, bouncy, feverish track, but it’s certainly not one that Barbra Streisand would release. It seems like an odd match: a club track about your grandma’s favorite vocalist? So it got us thinking about other unlikely celebrity-inspired songs, from Mu’s electro-freakout “Paris Hilton,” to Woody Guthrie’s musings on Ingrid Bergman. Check out our top ten after the jump.
“David Duchovny” by Bree Sharp
Bree Sharp’s homage to David Duchovny is pretty sweet, in a celebrity stalker way, but it seems like an odd person to have a crush on. Sure, he’s cute on The X-Files, but don’t singer-songwriters have crushes on more sensitive, artsy types and not, say, a deeply troubled sex addict? It’s a good thing the chorus alone — “David Duchovny/Why don’t you love me?” — is worth the weirdness factor.
“Paris Hilton” by Mu
If you were writing an electro-freakout party anthem about someone, which celebrity would you choose? David Bowie? Tiny Tim? About last on our list would be party girl heiress Paris Hilton, but somehow Mu is making it work. Not that the lyrics are that flattering. “I’m the richest party dumb girl!/ Would you like to look at my sex tape?” Eeep.
“The Right Profile” by The Clash
Montgomery Clift was one of the 1950s acting greats who has since faded more or less into total obscurity. After a nasty car accident in 1957, the Oscar-nominated star turned into an alcoholic, reckless recluse before dying of a suspicious-looking heart attack at the age of 45. A sad story, but not exactly an obvious choice as a punk band’s icon. But the Clash dedicated “The Right Profile” entirely to Monty Clift’s story: “Nembutal numbs it all/But I prefer alcohol!” Bonus: R.E.M. also has a song dedicated to Clift called “Monty Got a Raw Deal.”
“Vendela Vida” by Dinosaur Feathers
Brooklyn retro-surf pop outfit Dinosaur Feathers tends to sing songs about history lessons and waves on the beach — so naming a song after Vendela Vida, novelist and wife of Dave Eggers — seems a bit out of character. The song begins intriguingly enough: ” I got Vendela Vida/ You got Boris in tow /She only comes when I read her/ You only come when I go.” Apparently, the guitarist named it after Vida because he had just seen her reading some of her short stories. So that’s how you get a song named after you.
“Jessica Simpson” by Adam Green
Ex-Moldy Peacher Adam Green wrote this surprisingly beautiful jaunt about Jessica Simpson’s internal struggles. While Green’s anti-folk tendencies have always led to unusual song subjects, dedicating an anthem to the woman whose major claim to fame is being unable to tell the difference between tuna and chicken seems like a bit of a risky move. But it pays off: the phrase “injections of cortisone” has never sounded lovelier.
“Joan Crawford” by Blue Öyster Cult
Blue Öyster Cult isn’t usually the band you think of when you hear “Joan Crawford tribute,” but indeed they have one. Crawford’s legendary diva-dom and concern about wire hangers apparently gave her enough edge to get a hair metal anthem about her turning into a zombie: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no/ Joan Crawford has risen from the grave!!” That is a little scary.
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus
Bela Lugosi — a Hungarian actor of stage and screen — had indeed been dead, for about 20 years, when Bauhaus released this single. Though Lugosi’s most famous role, Count Dracula, certainly makes sense in Bauhaus’s ’80s goth rock, it’s still an odd moment when the stalwarts of 1940s Hungarian film and British scenesters meet.
“Joey” by Bob Dylan
Far be it from us to parse Bob Dylan’s cultural obsessions, but his song “Joey” — covered here by a pretty impressive Dylan imitator — seems pretty far afield even for him. It’s subject is Joey Gallo, a small-time Brooklyn gangster who was murdered in the 1940s. Dylan gets pretty riled about Joey’s murder at the end, crooning: “Someday if God’s in heaven lookin’ after his preserve/ I know the men who shot him down will get what they deserve.” Justice, Dylan-style.
“Ingrid Bergman” by Woody Guthrie
Though Woody Guthrie and Ingrid Bergman were contemporaries, they inhabited such vastly different fields that the idea of his singing this tribute to her is a little bizarre. Try to imagine, for example, Calvin Johnson writing a song about Angelina Jolie. (Which we’re not discouraging, by the way.) Though Guthrie penned the tune, he never got around to setting it to music — Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue collaboration took care of that for him.
“Mariah Carey & the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” by Sonic Youth
Though they changed the title on the album to “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” due to (we’re guessing) Mariah Carey not being super-pleased about her name being used, the original version of this track off Sonic Nurse is a tribute to the vocal acrobatics and pop lifestyle of Mariah Carey. It seems a bit implausible that Sonic Youth would choose Mariah Carey of all people to have in their song — the woman was responsible for Glitter, of all things — but it’s not the first time that the Youth has fixated on a diva. “Expressway to Yr Skull’s” alternate titles are “Madonna, Sean and Me” and “The Crucifixion of Sean Penn.”
Bonus: Abe Vigoda
Some celebrities get songs, but others get whole bands. L.A. punk band Abe Vigoda take their name from the elderly actor, most famous for his role in The Godfather.