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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Pluto is still out there circling the sun, even though, one year ago, little Pluto lost its status as a planet. The International Astronomical Union modified the definition of a planet, and Pluto didn't fit the new criteria. It was big news in the world of astronomy. It also captured the imagination of some singer/songwriters.

Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: As far as musicians go, Christine Lavin was ahead of her time when she wrote a song 10 years ago about the possibility that Pluto might be downgraded.

(Soundbite of song, "Planet X")

Ms. CHRISTINE LAVIN (Singer): You listen to scientific facts laid out in the (unintelligible). You decide for yourself. Is it a planet or is it a plan-not?

BLAIR: In 1996, Lavin read an article in USA Today with the headline "Demoting Pluto Is Just Asking for Trouble." She knew right away she had to write a song.

Ms. LAVIN: Maybe it's the whole underdog thing. You know, kids have always been a big fan of Pluto because it's so little.

BLAIR: Lavin's eight-minute song pretty much sums up the history of Pluto's discovery, and the debate of its status.

(Soundbite of song, "Planet X")

Ms. LAVIN: (Singing) How are we going to deal with it if science comes up with the proof that Pluto was never a planet. How do we handle this truth? As the Ph.D.'s all disagree, we don't know yet who's wrong or who's right. But wherever you are and whatever you are, Pluto, we know you're up there tonight.

BLAIR: In the past year, Lavin's had to change the lyrics to her song "Planet X." Next year, they'll be included in a new textbook about Pluto, written by the Hayden Planetarium's Rose Space Center.

The band One Ring Zero came up with the Pluto-inspired tune called "International Astronomical Union," named for the organization that decided on the new definition of a planet. Joshua Camp and Michael Hearst love using the quintessentially sci-fi instrument, the theremin. And Pluto's story was perfect for a song.

(Soundbite of song, "International Astronomical Union")

BLAIR: When the announcement was made last year, Michael Hearst thought, who are we to decide?

Mr. MICHAEL HEARST (Singer, One Ring Zero): It was kind of the idea that we earthlings being able to label. I mean, the universe is so massive, you know, and the world and, well, it goes way beyond our nine planets and - or eight planets, as the case may be.

BLAIR: They sang, eight around the sun they roll, one we just had to let go.

(Soundbite of song, "International Astronomical Union")

Mr. HEARST: (Singing) Eight around the sun they roll, one we just had to let go.

BLAIR: One of the more atmospheric and whimsical songs about Pluto's demotion comes from Clare Muldaur of the pop band Clare & the Reasons. Her song is like a heart-to-heart talk with the erstwhile planet.

(Soundbite of song, "Pluto")

Ms. CLARE MULDAUR (Singer, Clare & the Reasons): (Singing) Pluto, I have some frightful news. In the New York Times, they've just reported you've been overthrown from your solar throne for good.

BLAIR: Clare Muldaur uses Pluto's rise and fall, so to speak, as a metaphor for something all too familiar to artists.

Ms. MULDAUR: I think an artist can easily have that happen to them, and - or do it to themselves. So I just had a really easy time sort of sitting down with Pluto, telling him it was going to be okay.

(Soundbite of song, "Pluto")

Ms. MULDAUR: (Singing) Chin up, Pluto, (unintelligible) We know you do, too. You know what to do. Just keep on giving your heart.

BLAIR: The song, "Pluto," will appear on Clare & the Reasons' new CD, which comes out in October.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: Go ahead, go to npr.org/music and listen to all of those songs for a fallen planet.

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