Ithaca Blog

Friday, June 13, 2008

Foreign Language Songs Quiz: Answers and Winner

No one won the trifecta for our quiz question last week, asking for the only three foreign language songs - one in French, one German, one Spanish - ever to make the Billboard charts in the U.S.

That trifecta would be: "Dominique", by the Singing Nun; "99 Luftballoons", by Nena; and "La Bamba", by Richie Valens.

"La Bamba" has the distiction of being the first to crack the xenophobia barrier.

(Which brings to mind a popular joke in Queens, NY, purportedly the most ethnically diverse area in the world.

What do you call a person who speaks five languages? Multi-lingual.
What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual.
What do you call a person who speaks one language? American.)

We got a lot of correct answers identifying one or another of the songs in question. Also, some funny ones, like from Joe M., who knew "La Bamba", but also suggested "Tequila." We offered, in reply, that "Tequila" is a title, but only arguably a lyric. Also, that "tequila" might actually be considered an honorary (or adopted) English word, since it is commonly known, and has no alternative. Same as "vodka" (which is actually (we believe) a Russian word, an affectionate diminutive of "water").

Joe also nominated "Louie Louie" as a song that is not in English; but if incomprehensibility were a language, many rock singers would be bi-lingual.

The contest winner, selected at random, is Marc, who gets a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, the college of musical knowledge. Congratulations to Marc, and thanks to all entrants.

1 comment:

Lairor said...

These answers are only partly correct. I can think of one more song in each language that made the Billboard charts in the U.S.

French: "Soul Makossa" by Manu Dibango hit #35 in 1973.
German: "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk hit #25 in 1975.
Spanish: "La Tortura" by Shakira & Alejandro Sanz hit #23 in 2005.

Additionally Los Lobos also had a hit with "La Bamba" so same song, different recording. Also Snow had a hit with the song "Informer" which was rapped in Jamaican patois - essentially a derivative of English, but most unintelligible.