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(I've Had) The Time Of My Life?

The Oregonian newspaper recently published a list of area high school prom themes. On this Friday I thought would share them with you.

Burns High, Burns: "A Night in Vegas"
Catlin Gabel, Portland: "A Trip to the Stars"
David Douglas High, Portland: "A Black and White Affair"
Lakeview Senior High, Lakeview: "Mardi Gras"
Oregon City High, Oregon City: "Masquerade Ball"
Sunset High, Beaverton: "Into the Sunset"
Bend Senior High, Bend: "A Night in Hollywood"
Madras High, Madras: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Astoria High, Astoria: "Come Away With Me" (Norah Jones song)
North Salem High, Salem: "Under the City Lights"
Corvallis High, Corvallis: "Old Hollywood — The Golden Age"
South Medford High, Medford: "A Night to Shine"
Gresham High, Gresham: "Rumble in the Jungle" (They held it at the zoo)
Jesuit High School, Portland: "Jurassic Prom — 65 Million Years in the Making"
Tigard High, Tigard: "Diamonds Are Forever"
South Eugene High, Eugene: "Bollywood"
Lake Oswego High, Lake Oswego: "Starry, Starry Night"
Southridge High, Beaverton: "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (Aerosmith song)
Aloha High, Beaverton: "Red Carpet"
Columbia River High, Vancouver: "Time After Time" (Cyndi Lauper and Quietdrive song)
Century High, Hillsboro: "Once Upon a Dream"

Without a doubt, my favorite theme is "Jurassic Prom—65 Million Years in the Making." It makes it sound like the members of the Jesuit High School prom committee were some of the first humans to walk the earth. After all, they had ostensibly been planning this special night for many millennia. Amazing! In contrast, "A Night In Vegas" just seems like a recipe for disaster.

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I was also surprised to see Aerosmith and Cyndi Lauper as two of the writers behind this year's prom theme songs. In 2008? Is prom one of our only traditions immune to contemporary trends in music, culture, and technology? Wouldn't Usher, Fall Out Boy, or Gnarls Barkley be timelier? Or is prom the ultimate form of nostalgia, wherein kids reenact traditions and traditional roles long since abandoned or transmogrofied, so that the themes are in fact a commentary on the staleness, retro-ness, or novelty of the dance itself? I could not say for sure.

My own Senior Prom was theme-less and held on a boat on Lake Union in Seattle. The DJ never bothered to show up. The captain had two CDs that he played in a round over the boat's PA system—NIN's Pretty Hate Machine and Legend: The Best of Bob Marley. Somewhere between "Head Like A Hole" and "Three Little Birds" I got partially drunk in the bathroom. I've never listened to either CD again.

What I do find interesting about prom is that it is one of the few moments in your life when a song not chosen by you comes to define who you are as both an individual and as a member of a community. And the song becomes part of your story, whether you want it to or not. It's not merely some friends or a couple having their special song; it's a song that momentarily embodies you and your small segment of the population, a generation signifier even, at least for a single night. And it's the song that ends the long soundtrack of your youth and you didn't even get to decide on it. That is a lot of power for one silly little song.

Or maybe you didn't go to prom and you saved yourself the embarrassment.

If you remember your prom theme song, feel free to share.

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On an entirely different note, and as some of you know, composer Earle H. Hagen, who is probably best known for writing the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show died on Monday, May 26th. The story goes that Hagan had never whistled before in his life, but when the TV execs asked for his idea, he wanted it to be something simple. He wrote the tune in an hour.

In honor of Hagen, and if you want to have a song stuck in your head all weekend, click here.

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