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Five Perplexing Songs about Herbs

While Herb Albert is perhaps best known for appearing shirtless on the cover of his solo album “Blow Your Own Horn,” the trumpet player is not the only musical herb, or spice for that matter, to be immortalized in some way through music.

From Simon and Garfunkel to Neil Young, spices and herbs have found their way into song titles and  lyrics, whether for good reason or just for fun, as with the 2010 Stone Temple Pilots song “Cinnamon,” what they called “fun, poppy, light-hearted, totally grooving – the flip side to STP that we don’t often show people.”

While we had to dip back into the past to round them up, here are the top five songs that celebrate, honor or mention the color, the beauty and that magic of the world’s most revered spices and herbs.

  1. Scarborough Fair.” This 1966 song from the Simon & Garfunkel album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” features the same lyrics, “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” Based on a Scottish ballad, the lyrics are those of a spurned lover weaving a spell of sorts by uniting the medicinal powers of the quartet of herbs in order to win his true love’s heart back again.
  2. Mellow Yellow.” This 1967 Donovan song sings about Saffron as if the highly-prized yellow spice Saffron was an equally highly-prized girl. Turns out it was mostly nonsense, with a bit of masturbation thrown into the mix. When asked in 2011 what the song was about, Donovan said, “Quite a few things. Lennon and I used to look in the back of newspapers and pull out funny things and they’d end up in songs. So it’s about being cool, laid back.” And the electrical bananas mentioned toward the end? “Ladies’ vibrators,” the singer said.
  3. Cinnamon Girl.” Neil Young’s 1969 hit was a simple love song about falling in lust with a tanned “City girl on peeling pavement … playing finger cymbals.” It appeared on the album “Everybody Knows this is Nowhere.” According to Young, he had trouble explaining the song to his wife, who was not that city girl. 
  4. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).” This 1970 song from the short-lived band Edison Lighthouse is simply about a girl named Rosemary. It experienced a resurgence of sorts when it was featured in the closing scenes of the movie “Shallow Hal” as well as the miniseries “The Kennedys.” 
  5. Salt and Pepper.” This 1980 song from sentimental Harry Chapin (who is best known for the tear-jerker “Cats in the Cradle,” about a father and son whose lives never line up like they should), is about an old sailor Chapin spotted in a restaurant, although the tables likely had shakers of each spice as settings. 


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