Truck Driver Modulation

Here’s a list of the 12 greatest key changes in pop music. Of course once you start a list like this, you open yourself to criticism. So I’ll add my two cents. Though the author suggests that it’s a legacy of Michael Jackson, the process of modulating to an unrelated tonal area is older than that. I will note several examples drawn from an essay by Walter Everett, “Swallowed by a Song: Paul Simon’s Crisis in Chromaticism,” in Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis, edited by John Covach and Graeme Boone, 115-153 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997):

  • Paul Simon, “Baby Driver,” 1969
  • Bobby Goldsboro, “Honey,” 1968
  • Zager and Evans, “In the Year 2525,” 1969
  • Classics IV, “Traces,” 1969
  • Toys, “A Lover’s Concerto,” 1965
  • Bobby Hebb, “Sunny,” 1966
  • Four Seasons, “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’bout Me),” 1966
  • Playmates, “Beep Beep,” 1958
  • Jan and Dean, “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena),” 1964

And from Richard J. Scott, Chord Progressions for Songwriters (Lincoln, NE: IUniverse, 2003), here’s a portion of his list of Beatles songs:

  • “Norwegian Wood,” 1965
  • “Fool on the Hill,” 1967
  • “Things We Said Today,” 1964
  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” 1968
  • “And I Love Her,” 1964
  • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” 1967
  • “A Day in the Life,” 1967
  • “My Sweet Lord,” 1970
  • “Another Girl,” 1965
  • “Here, There and Everywhere,” 1966
  • “Lady Madonna,” 1968
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” 1963

And I’m sure we can trace similar processes at work in other types of music, particularly in the work Debussy and some of the twentieth-century composers.

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