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Summer Songs: 'Lean On Me,' 'Fight The Power'

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Summer Songs: 'Lean On Me,' 'Fight The Power'

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Summer Songs: 'Lean On Me,' 'Fight The Power'

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

So, Madeleine, you know that this summer, we've been talking about people's favorite summer songs, right?

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Right. Yeah, you've been interviewing as lot of musicians and writers and people about a song that was personal, that meant something to them.

BLOCK: Right. And it spawned so many memories for me and, I think, for you that we decided today we'd talk to each other about our favorite summer songs.

BRAND: Well, I want to hear yours first.

BLOCK: Okay. Well, my summer song takes me back to the early '70s. I'm at summer camp in Thetford Center, Vermont, Camp Kokosing, and there's - every Friday night, there is a social, a dance. And you would hear, sometime during the night, these piano chords:

(Soundbite of song, "Lean on Me")

BLOCK: Instant cue, Madeleine, that this is a slow song. This is "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers.

(Soundbite of song, "Lean on Me")

Mr. BILL WITHERS (Singer): (Singing) Sometime in my life, we all have pain…

BLOCK: And so, okay, so I'm 12, 13. I know exactly what I'm wearing. I'm wearing white carpenter pants and an Indian-print midriff shirt, and there's this mad dash, you know, to try to find somebody to slow-dance with.

BRAND: And do you have lots of takers?

BLOCK: Probably not, no. That's why it would be a mad dash.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: But I just remember being, you know, that awkward adolescent phase, and there's this incredible song about just pure trust and support and love. And you look around, and people are slow-dancing, except here's the trick. Somewhere, at two points during this song, remember, the tempo, the beat, totally changes.

(Soundbite of song, "Lean on Me")

Mr. WITHERS: (Singing) You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to…

BLOCK: See? Okay, so you're slow-dancing. What do you do now?

BRAND: Well, yeah, and it's already an awkward situation because you're 13.

BRAND: Right. Exactly. So you kind of de-couple, and you flail around for a bit in some awkward semi-fast dance, and then you're sort of tricked up again because then it gets back into the slow groove.

BRAND: So then you get back together? Or you…

BLOCK: Yeah.

BRAND: But the spell is kind of broken from the first.

BLOCK: Maybe, but you have a nice, long stretch here. And then you have to do it again because the fast thing happens again. So it's sort of this back and forth, and - but what a great song. I mean, I just listen to this, and I'm completely taken back to being 12, 13 years old at summer camp.

(Soundbite of song, "Lean on Me")

Mr. WITHERS: (Singing) If you just call me, call me.

BLOCK: Madeleine, what about your song?

BRAND: Well, I would say my song is just a wee bit different than your song.

(Soundbite of song, "Fight the Power")

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Just a little bit.

BLOCK: Just a little bit different.

BRAND: I was not 13, just, you know, to allay any suspicions that I'm a lot younger than I actually am. This is Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," and it came out in 1989.

(Soundbite of song, "Fight the Power")

PUBLIC ENEMY (Rap Group): (Rapping) 1989, the number, another summer.

BRAND: I had just graduated from college. I had my first job, and it was all the way across country - I went to Berkeley - in Buffalo, New York.

BLOCK: Oh, okay.

BRAND: And that first job was being the local host at the public radio station for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

BLOCK: A noble profession.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: It served you well.

BRAND: It did.

(Soundbite of song, "Fight the Power")

PUBLIC ENEMY: (Rapping) We got to fight the power that be, fight the power.

BRAND: I would listen to this song in my car driving around Buffalo and thinking about getting to the big city, downstate New York because this song just made me really think: wow, there's a lot going on downstate - not to take anything away from Buffalo, but I wanted to be in the action. I wanted to be where news was happening, and I did. I moved to New York and…

BLOCK: And the rest is history.

BRAND: And the rest is history. And just this song is, you know, not only does it have this political message, but it's just an amazing song to dance to.

(Soundbite of song, "Fight the Power")

PUBLIC ENEMY: (Rapping) We've got to fight the powers that be.

BLOCK: And Madeleine, we should say there are some vintage photographs at npr.org. You have some excellent '80s hair.

BRAND: It is big. And I have the big earrings to prove it, and you look so adorable.

BLOCK: A scrawny little thing at age 12. We are taking this opportunity, Madeleine, this is the soundtrack to wish you farewell. You've been with us for five weeks. You've been terrific, great energy.

BRAND: It has been such a pleasure.

BLOCK: We really hope you're back with us soon.

BRAND: I would love to be, and thank you so much. You have been great to - shall I say it? Lean on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Thanks, Madeleine, come back soon. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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