When Songs Get Stuck in our Heads

Ok, I’m going to date myself now. But I know some of my readers remember the fun song, Bimbo, that was first recorded by Jim Reeves, who later died in a private plane crash in 1964.

I can’t quote too much of the song because “fair use” for the music industry is a whole different ballgame than “fair use” in other literary copyrights. (Meaning that ASCAP and BMI almost never stop wanting their cut in music licensing fees, and right now isn’t the time for chasing down details of all that entails.) But you can find this bouncy song about the adventurous little boy via videos on YouTube. I have heard several other verses over the years, all cute.

Sometimes songs just pop into your head when you haven’t thought of them in years, even decades. It might have been something your grandma used to sing back in the 1950s or since then. Bimbo has always been a day brightener for most people. We need those.

It seems so random when snippets pop up from our subconscious. We probably have hundreds of thousands of items “floating” around in there. All any of them need is a word association to trigger an emotion and almost immediately, the song. Seeing a commercial jet plane fly overhead will trigger a particular song for many of a certain age, or seeing a red sunset will trigger another. And what usually happens is that you can’t get the song out of your head after that, even when it’s by a group of talented, dancing raisins.

Getting Songs Unstuck

Deliberately starting to sing another song will often help, as long as that doesn’t get on your nerves as well. Some Christmas songs and even Christmas carols can get downright annoying when you’re still playing them over and over in your head in mid-January. The same goes even for every-week sacred and classical music. Often, enough is enough, no matter how beautiful and meaningful the composition. It’s no wonder that performers can grow to dread being asked to sing or even play the audience’s favorite.

There’s a fascinating article on the subject of songs getting stuck in our heads at Science: How Stuff Works. It’s called … wait for it … Why do songs get stuck in my head? The Contributing Writer is author Stephanie Watson, who has a degree in Mass Communications from Boston University. She talks about the auditory cortex in the brain and how it fills in the gaps and keeps on singing long after just a partial song has ended. She also mentions “brain itch” and how we need to scratch it by playing the snippet over and over, which just perpetuates the problem, that is, the more you scratch, the more you itch.

Ok, that’s the what. The why explanation has been attempted by multiple researchers and Watson delves into several of them. There is no lack of theories about why songs get stuck in our heads. However, those people who are exhausted and/or stressed seem more likely to be afflicted. I’m not sure I needed to learn that but knowledge is a useful weapon in all areas of life. Now I know more than one way of tackling the issue before a beautiful memory becomes its own aggravation.

Bimbo, Bimbo, where ya gonna go-e-o?

Disclaimer: My blog posts are statements of opinion only. I am not in the business of giving financial, legal, medical or any other type of advice. See Terms of Use and Disclaimer for further disclaimers.

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