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Songs of Luxury & Materialism: Porsche's Place In Popular Music

The Porsche 911E aka "The Secret Weapon from Zuffenhausen"
The Porsche 911E aka "The Secret Weapon from Zuffenhausen"
Charles01 via Wikipedia.

Behind every manufactured product there's a human being who designed it. Working alone or as part of group, they create and revise until that product is out in the world available for purchase. In the case of the Porsche 911 that man was Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, who passed away recently at the age of 76.

While he didn't give the company their name -- that would be his grandfather, also named Ferdinand -- he was the designer of its most popular vehicle, the one that cemented the Porsche brand in popular culture.

Brands are a form of shorthand in pop culture, a reference point that we all understand. You may not know a thing about cars or how they work, but you know that Porsche is a desirable brand. You don't need to know the finer points of the various models to know that a 911 is a vehicle that means money and power.

F.A. didn't just give the world a car; he gave it a symbol. Like most things that become a part of our cultural fabric the Porsche brand and the 911 have worked their way into plenty of songs. Here is a handful of their greatest musical moments.

Song: "Mercedes Benz," Janis Joplin Line: "Oh Lord won't you by me a Mercedes Benz/ My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends."

Live, Joplin would introduce the song with the following statement: "I'd like to do a song of great social and political import." On the surface, the song is a plea to God for the finer things in life: A fancy car, a color TV, and a night out on the town. Here the Porsche is the subject of jealousy; her friends all have nice vehicles and she wants one of her own.

Joplin had a point to make with the song, which explains the introduction she gave it. She was making a statement on materialism: too many people think that having nice things is what makes you happy.

It's interesting that Joplin, Michael McClure, and Bob Neuwirth, the writers credited for the song, chose Mercedes-Benz to be the car of desire. Offstage Joplin owned a 1965 Porsche Cabriolet, one with a fancy paint job that transformed it in to a piece of hippie art. A replica of her whip is on display at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Joplin's hometown of Port Arthur.

Song: "Middle Aged Crazy," Jerry Lee Lewis

The Line: "Today he traded his big '98 Oldsmobile/ He got a heck of a deal on a new Porsche car."

It's a common story in pop culture: The tale of a man who turns 40 but acts like he's 20. He shaves his head, ditches his stuffy work clothes, finds himself a young girl to pal around with, and gets rid of his old car. And what kind of vehicle does a man in the middle of a mid-life crisis get?

The two lines quoted are the first lines of the song, which says all you need to know about the strength of the Porsche brand in popular culture. Things like model and color don't matter: all you need to know is that he bought a Porsche, and that tells you everything you need to know about his new vehicle.

 

Song: "Welcome To The Boomtown," David & David

The Line: "Ms. Cristina drives a 944/ Satisfaction oozes from her pores."

The '80s- depending on your point of view it was the best of times or the worst of times. The song falls in to the latter category.

Ms. Cristina might seem like she's having a good time behind the wheel of her sports car but looks can be deceiving. After all, there's cocaine on her dresser and bars on her doors. Success in the Boomtown comes with a price for everyone.

The 944 is a reference to the Porsche 944, a sports car introduced by the company in 1982. For a time it was the most successful car Porsche put out. It fits in nicely with the song because ultimately it was a relic of the '80s. The product line ended in 1991. Ms. Cristina was unavailable for comment.

Song : "Parents Just Don't Understand," DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

The Line: "My parents went away on a week's vacation/ And they left the keys to the brand-new Porsche"

It's easy to look at this as a song about an ungrateful child who is materialistic and untrustworthy, but for a moment consider the story from Will's perspective: Not only are his parents rich enough to afford a week's vacation, but they just bought a brand-new Porsche. His mom could have easily bought him shoes that didn't come with Velcro.

The second verse of the song is about The Fresh Prince's misadventure with his parents' Porsche, which includes auto theft, speeding, kidnapping and domestic violence. It's actually all pretty funny, as are the absolutely awful fake driving sequences in the video.

The song also asks an important question: would a lunatic own a Porsche? Maybe, looking past the humor, the song has an important point to make about class. We trust the rich. We aspire to be wealthy because they're generally seen to be a better class of people. But ask yourself: What would Patrick Bateman drive?

Song "Who Gon Stop Me," Kanye West & Jay-Z

The Line: "Extend the beat Noah/ Two seats in the 911/ No limit on the Black Card/ Told ya'll I was gonna go H.A.M/ 'til the ocean was my backyard."

Songs on Watch The Throne come in two basic modes: Serious meditations on subjects such as race, fatherhood, and loyalty; and songs about being awesome and filthy rich.

The Porsche reference in this song is the lynchpin of some impressive wordplay on Jay's part. Without the double meaning that comes with using that car and that model number, the lines wouldn't work.

Jay literally says: Noah, I need more music; my car is awesome and I can buy whatever I want; I'm gonna go as hard as I can 'til I get a beach house. But consider this: Noah built the ark; Genesis 9:11 references the Great Flood. What Jay is actually saying is that he's going to go H.A.M. 'til the world ends.

It's worth noting that the 911 actually has four seats, which is good because otherwise there's no telling where Blue Ivy's carseat would go.


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