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Pop Goes the Dog


Issa (formerly Jane Siberry) and fans
Issa (formerly Jane Siberry) and fans

Me and My Arrow
Composed by Harry Nilsson
Performed by Harry Nilsson
Released 1971 (#34 US)
Nilsson had explored the boy-and-his-dog theme in “The Puppy Song,” a 1969 hit for Mary Hopkin. But he perfected it on this lump-in-the-throat nursery rhyme. It was a centerpiece for his original animated musical, The Point, which Nilsson later confessed was born out of an acid trip. “I looked at the trees and realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to points. I thought, ‘Everything has a point.’”

Everything except round-headed Oblio, who is banished to the pointless forest along with his faithful Arrow.
Nilsson said of the song, “It’s about a dog, your alter ego. ‘Straighter than narrow.’ That means narrow-minded, because the people in the story are prejudiced. Patricia Hearst named her dog Arrow. I got a kick out of that when I first heard it. Since then a lot of people have named their dogs Arrow.”

Old Shep
Composed by Red Foley & Willis Arthur
Performed by Red Foley
Released 1941
Growing up in Depression-era rural Kentucky, Red Foley was inseparable from his best friend Hoover, a German Shepherd. As this tearjerker tribute says, the dog once helped save the boy from drowning. Sadly, unlike Shep, Hoover never reached old age, as he was poisoned by one of Foley’s neighbors.

When Red performed the song, grown men were known to weep when he reached the line about how Shep “laid his old head on my knee.”

In 1945, a 10-year old Elvis Presley made his first public appearance, singing “Old Shep” at the Alabama State Fair and winning a $5 prize.

Covered by many artists, including Johnny Cash and Alabama, this classic ballad was also the indirect inspiration for Old Yeller.

Everything Reminds Me of My Dog
Composed by Jane Siberry
Performed by Jane Siberry
Released 1989
Telephones, taxi cabs, Albert Einstein—these are a few of the things that remind Siberry of her dog in this whimsical romp. The songstress’s muse was big black mutt with the unlikely name of Crimson. During Jane’s daily travels around Toronto, she realized that what animal activist Roger Caras once said was true: “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

“I learned a lot from my dog,” Siberry says. “I never would’ve been so tuned in to the minute nuances of the everyday light, except I had to walk him all the time. Now that I don’t have a dog, I notice how much less connected I am with the outdoor world.”

Old King
Composed by Neil Young
Performed by Neil Young
Released 1992
Introducing this song in concert, Neil Young tells how he once lost his dog, a Bluetick Hound named Elvis, while on tour.

When Young’s bus pulled off the highway for a pit stop, Elvis hit the ground running, in search of olfactory pleasures. Young quickly lost sight of him. Then there was a burst of drenching rain.


Young knew that even with his super-sniffing nose, Elvis wouldn’t be able to find his way back. A search was fruitless. Neil had to make the next gig, but couldn’t bear to leave the dog behind. So he put down his old “lucky shirt” and a bowl of chow by the side of the road. Once he reached the venue, he sent a roadie back to the spot, and there was Elvis, ready and wagging.




Bill DeMain is a freelance writer and muscian based in Nashville, Tenn. He's contributed to Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, MOJO and Eldr and is also one-half of the acclaimed pop duo Swan Dive. His favorite song is "Me and My Arrow" by Harry Nilsson. swandive.org

Photo courtesy of Henry Gross

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