May 26, 2018
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You think you know me, iPod analyst?

By Emmet Meara, Special to the News

What’s on your iPod? Shhh. Don’t tell. Those ever-present “researchers,” this bunch at Cambridge University, have discovered that your iPod contents can reveal your ethnicity, values, personality and social class. Well, it was England, after all.

A bloke named Jason Rentfrow actually was paid by the university’s department of social and developmental psychology to determine after exhaustive study that the iPod contents could “reinforce stereotypes and potentially, social prejudices. This research suggests that, even though our assumptions may not be accurate, we get a very strong impression about someone when we ask them what music they like.”

Those who have a predilection for jazz are, supposedly, liberal, friendly and sociable. Well, of course. While classical music elicits some positive traits, such as intelligence, it also brings with it an aura of dullness, ugliness and a lack of athleticism.


Fascinated (not really) by the Cambridge “research,” I clicked on my beloved iPod (2,566 songs) to see what it revealed about me.

The random selections started with “Tipitina,” A New Orleans standard by Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster. I blame Rockland’s Paul Benjamin and his North Atlantic Blues Festival for warping my musical taste from its 1970s rhythm and blues roots. His selection of New Orleans groups on the waterfront stage sent me searching for more and better groups on iTunes. I sampled The Absolute Monster and grabbed a dozen or so. “Tipitina” will put you in lively cadence for that 1.3-mile occasional walk to the Camden post office.

Second was “Play It All Night Long” by Warren Zevon. I must admit I came late to the Zevon parade when he recorded “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” after he contracted his fatal disease.

“A Letter to Tracy” by Keb’ Mo’ was next. I never heard of Keb’ Mo’ until he opened for Lyle Lovett on the Boston Waterfront one glorious summer (you remember) night. Now he is an all-time favorite.

The Brazilian film “Black Orpheus,” which won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1960, has always fascinated me. I believe that is where “Choro” by Bola Sete and Vince Guaraldi came from. The album contains a Black Orpheus suite. I suspect it could have been a recommendation from cousin Jerry, who earned a music degree from Berklee at age 50. He is my hero.

I always hated Joan Baez for her imperious attitude. But you cannot deny that voice. I added “Diamonds and Rust” with a very few others and enjoy it immensely.

The biggest mystery in this selection is “Stronger” by Kanye West. I must have heard the song somewhere and quickly downloaded it before I forgot. More likely, I purchased an entire album and Kanye West was hidden somewhere on it. West is much too up-to-date for me. Don’t tell anyone.

I also came late to AC/DC. The first I heard of it was when my favorite psychologist, Larry Ouellette, was playing “Highway to Hell” on his office stereo, screaming along, when a rare client walked in. I would love to hear from that person. I added “Jailbreak” to my iPod and admit it is a very guilty pleasure.

You can’t have 2,566 songs without some Skynyrd. I have “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe,” which is much too slow for the post office walk, but fine for driving.

I don’t have many claims to fame. Perhaps my best is singing into Otis Redding’s microphone in some joint in Oakland, Calif. I believe my lyrics were “fa, fa, fa, fa, fa, fa, fa.” Even before that he was my all-time fave. Naturally “Try a Little Tenderness” is on the iPod, which I sing at the top of my lungs, no matter where I am.

The next random selections are “In the Wee Small Hours” by Astrid Gilberto (lovely), “Hasten Down the Wind,” another Zevon tune, and “Bald Headed Baby,” by Debbie Davies, another Paul Benjamin influence. Naturally, “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores shares some iPod space.

What do these songs say about me? I am too dumb to appreciate classical music. But I am smart enough to love Otis, the Stones, New Orleans music and an occasional Brazilian beat. I don’t know why, but I now hate Sinatra and skip his songs when they come up at random.

Also, judging by the artists, many of whom have gone to musical heaven, I am old. Very old.

But mellow. Very mellow.

Take that, Jason.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at

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