Q: I’m looking for the single that Michael Stipe and Chris Martin recorded together. Can you tell me the name of the song?
A: In 2006, REM’s Michael Stipe recruited Coldplay’s Chris Martin to record a song to benefit the victims of. He chose Joseph Arthur’s “In the Sun” as the song to record. Six versions of the song were released to raise money for reconstruction efforts including a remix by Justin Timberlake and will.i.am, a version that includes Arthur, and a live recording by Coldplay and Stipe that was featured on “Austin City Limits.”
Q: I’ve always liked Steely Dan’s song, “Bodhisattva,” but am curious about the title. What does it mean?
A: “Bodhisattva” is the opening track of Steely Dan’s second album, “Countdown to Ecstasy.” The album was released in 1973 and peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the Buddhist religion of India and Southeast Asia, a “bodhisattva” is a person who is on the path to enlightenment, a path culminating in the person becoming a buddha. The song’s lyrics reflect Donald Fagen’s interest in Buddhist theology.
Q: Can you tell me the history behind the “Marines’ Hymn” and the references to the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli?
A: In 1883, the Marine Corps adopted “Semper Fidelis” (“Always Faithful”) as its official motto. Prior to that date, the Corps had three unofficial mottos, one of which was “To the shores of Tripoli.” In 1848, this motto was further revised to read, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” The references are to two famous battles in which U.S. Marines were involved, although for artistic reasons they are sung out of their correct historical order. The opening phrase “From the halls of Montezuma” refers to the Battle of Chapultepec (Sept. 12-13, 1847), one of the battles of the Mexican-American War (1846-48). During the battle, a band of Marines and volunteers stormed and captured the strategically important Chapultepec Castle that stood atop a 200-foot high hill guarding the western approach to Mexico City. The castle’s capture by U.S. troops forced Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna to abandon Mexico City, allowing U.S. forces to take the city easily on September 14. Although the war did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, the Battle of Chapultepec was among the last major skirmishes of the war and all but guaranteed the outcome. “To the shores of Tripoli” refers to the First Barbary War (1801-05), and, specifically, to the Battle of Derne in 1805. This was a war between the U.S. and the Barbary States of northern Africa, which included much of present-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The Battle of Derne is the first recorded overseas land battle fought by American troops. The melody used for the “Marines’ Hymn” is from the “Gendarmes’ Duet” from an 1867 revision of the 1859 comic opera, “Geneviève de Brabant,” by Jacques Offenbach, which debuted in Paris in 1859. No one is certain who wrote the song’s lyrics, although they are thought to have been written by a Marine stationed in Mexico. However, no pre-20th century text is known to exist. The Marine Corps secured a copyright on the song on Aug. 18, 1919.