Check It Out: You don’t need to carry a tune to enjoy these musical titles




Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

Can you carry a tune? I can. My smartphone allows me to carry hundreds of tunes around with me every day which is really fortunate since National Carry a Tune Week started today and goes through Oct. 7.

Thanks to the wonders of technology I’m well equipped to ferry melodies to and fro, and, oh — wait. How embarrassing. They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but in this case, a literal mind should be displaced. For anyone who doesn’t have a mobile device and was trying to figure out how to schlepp their CD collection to work and back, put that back brace away. Carrying a tune, in this case, means celebrating music in any way that makes you happy, so pick out your favorite tunes and sing, hum and whistle to your heart’s content.

Now, I imagine someone out there is saying, “But Jan, I’m not very good at singing or whistling.” No worries. Let me offer a few sing and whistle-free options.

Own an accordion? If you said, yes, brilliant! Pull out that squeezebox and serenade the unsuspecting neighbors. Do you have too many spoons in your silverware tray? Well, put those little musical instruments to work by playing the spoons to your favorite Beatles song. After all, it’s difficult to fully appreciate “Hey Jude” until you’ve tapped it out with spoons.

If you don’t have an accordion, and your spoons are busy, take any other instrument — traditional or not — and rip out a song. Heck, even a sackbut will do! Ooh, I’m channelling Julie Andrews right now: “The streets are alive / with the sound of sackbuts” waah, wah, wah, wah …

Need help getting in tune? Check out the library’s diverse collection of music-oriented reads.

• “Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop,” by Marc Myers — Described by the publisher as a “love letter to the songs that have defined generations,” “Anatomy of a Song” shares the backstories to “Please Mr. Postman,” “Stand by Your Man,” “Proud Mary,” and 42 other well-known tunes.

• “Beethoven’s Skull: Dark, Strange, and Fascinating Tales from the World of Classical Music,” by Tim Rayborn — For a look into the seamy side of classical music (yes, there’s a seamy side), check out this strangely compelling title and get ready for what the book’s introduction describes as a “veritable bazaar of the bizarre.” Roll over, Beethoven — your skull is about to have one creepy experience.

• “Johnny’s Cash & Charley’s Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music,” by Peter Michael Cooper — Writer Cooper, also a senior director at the Country Music Hall of Fame, draws on his years of experience in the music business to present this engaging inside view of the country music scene.

• “Motown: The Sound of Young America,” by Adam White — For anyone who appreciates the music of Motown, this book pays tribute to the founders, musicians and other key players who helped to create a defining period in American music. An extensive collection of photographs are included.

• “Sgt. Pepper at Fifty: The Mood, the Look, the Sound, the Legacy of the Beatles’ Great Masterpiece,” by Mike McInnerney — I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Paul McCartney (pardon me, Sir James Paul McCartney) is 75 years old. And now I am confronted with the reality that one of my all-time favorite albums, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” is 50 years old. What happened? Time may be getting the best of me, but this well-timed tribute to all things Sgt. Pepper-y definitely makes my day. As do you, dear readers. You’re such a lovely audience.

• “26 Songs in 30 Days: Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River Songs and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest,” by Greg Vandy — Did you know that the Department of the Interior hired Woody Guthrie to write songs about the Bonneville Power Administration’s construction of the Grand Coulee Dam? In one month he wrote 26 songs including the well-known “Roll On, Columbia.” Greg Vandy’s book takes the reader on a captivating journey through a unique moment in Pacific Northwest history.

• “Why You Love Music: From Mozart to Metallica: The Emotional Power of Beautiful Sounds,” by John Powell — Powell, a scientist and musician, explains in a very relatable way why music plays such an important role in our lives.

Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at