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Friday, September 25, 2009

Sneaking Up on Boo Radley/Bruce Hornsby

Next week Classics Rock! will be observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books. Here's a preview:

Bruce Hornsby's 1998 album Spirit Trail features a song called "Sneaking Up on Boo Radley," inspired by Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Set in a small Alabama town during the Depression, the story concerns a young girl named Scout, her older brother Jem, and their widowed father, attorney Atticus Finch. Hornsby's focus here is on the children's fascination with their mysterious, reclusive, and somewhat frightening neighbor, Boo Radley: They say he's crazy, they say he's gone/We play our tricks, make up funny songs/Sneaking around, feeling badly/Sneaking up on Boo Radley. The song depicts the kids creeping around the Radley house, trying to catch a gimpse of Boo, and conveys their mixed feelings about what they're doing: They say he's funny, got a loose screw/Stay away, he's a threat to you/Give him a break, what do we know/Might turn out we would like him so/We fear what we don't know. In the novel, Boo comes to the children's aid at a crucial moment. The lines Down the street, walking sadly/My little sister, loves him madly suggest the song is narrated by Jem. A live version of Sneaking Up On Boo Radley appears on Hornsby's 2000 album Here Come the Noise Makers. [See our previous entry for another musical allusion to To Kill a Mockingbird.]

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