He may have a hit on his hands. Musician Ben Gibbard, of the indie band Death Cab For Cutie, this week released a track that pays tribute to baseballer Ichiro Suzuki. A sublimely talented outfielder now on the downside of his distinguished career, Suzuki was traded two days ago to the New York Yankees from the Seattle Mariners, the home team for which Gibbard root-root-roots.
Ichiro’s Theme, written “a couple of years ago” according to Gibbard’s post on soundcloud.com, is a sugary and sentimental sayonara, with a softly hustling flow and a chorus catchy enough that a gold-glover such as Suzuki could appreciate it. Of course, it is just the latest in a very long line of musical tributes paid to our playing-field heroes. Here are five other sports hymns to cheer for:
Though many tribute tunes are fan-boy ditties or of the novelty-song kind, Dylan’s topical ballad from 1975 is nothing of those sorts. The fiddled, bongo-bopping classic is a protest song, an impassioned plea on the behalf of Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, a prizefighter dubiously jailed for a murder conviction which was eventually overturned. Memorable lyric: “To see him obviously framed, couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed/ to live in a land where justice is a game.”
The Ballad of Wendel Clark
A folk-rocking pub-rouser celebrates the robust pride of Kelvington, Sask., who was No. 17 in the program, but No. 1 in the hearts of some. The eyes of Don Cherry must mist, upon hearing the maple-blooded line “you’ll wish that you had died, when Wendel has your hide/ ‘cause he does it the Canadian way.”
I Am the Greatest
Leave it to the staggeringly self-assured boxer to go first-person-singular on a tribute song, recorded in his Cassius Clay days. While technically not a knockout, the R&B flip-side to the champ’s cover of Stand By Me packs outrageous braggadocio and a rhythmic flair.
Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio
Les Brown & His Band of Renown
The Yankee Clipper achieved some fame by marrying Marilyn Monroe, but they wouldn’t have been a thing if it weren’t for his swing. During DiMaggio’s stunning 56-game hitting streak, Bojangles Robinson danced on the Yankee dugout roof at Yankee Stadium for good luck and bandleader Les Brown recorded a brassy salute – “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, we want you on our side.”
Ichiro Goes to the Moon
The Baseball Project
Gibbard’s Ichiro’s Theme was not the first melodious nod to the Japanese-born superstar. Released early last year, a rugged and melodic go-go rocker written by Pacific Northwester Scott McCaughey whimsically believes the Mariner great to be a part-time astronaut who lives and plays by a commendable code: “Don’t put him on a pedestal, just treat him with respect/He seeks but his own approval, and earns all that he gets.”