YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Listen up! It's a rapper! It's a hippie! No . . . it's Superman!

September 03, 2008|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

Brad Meltzer's hot thriller "The Book of Lies" was published Tuesday and it has arrived with a unique companion soundtrack. Because a key element in the book is Meltzer's theory about the origins of Superman, the CD includes several pop songs that have referenced the Man of Steel, including R.E.M.'s "Superman," Five for Fighting's "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero."

Kal-El and his earthly alter ego, Clark Kent, have been popular topics for pop, rock, R&B, blues and hip-hop artists, and just as cinematic treatments of Superdude have evolved over time, so have the musical invocations.

In the '60s, Donovan found extraordinary strength in flower-power. R&B-funk musician Johnny "Guitar" Watson took the idea of Superman's powers into the bedroom in the '70s. And now emo rockers such as Five for Fighting whimper about how hard it is to live up to super ideals.

"The Book of Lies" CD just scratches the surface -- and it includes Joey Scarbury's milquetoast "Theme From Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)." Superman fans deserve better, so we've assembled a highly subjective and opinionated Top 10 list of favorite instances of the Man of Steel in pop tunes. This item and others on genre films, science fiction and graphic novels can be found at the Hero Complex blog at

10. "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," Jim Croce (1971): "You don't tug on Superman's cape/You don't spit into the wind." Timeless advice.

9. "Kryptonite," 3 Doors Down (2000): The Mississippi rock band is more interested in the super guy's fatal flaws than his mission to protect truth, justice and the American way.

8. "Superman Lover," Johnny "Guitar" Watson (1976): The R&B-funk-rap set often fantasizes about super powers in the boudoir. Other examples including Mario's hyper-romantic "Kryptonite" and Eminem's self-aggrandizing and vindictive "Superman."

7. "So Long, Superman," Firewater (1998): A pop-punk ditty anticipating Lois Lane's Pulitzer-winning commentary (in "Superman Returns") about a world with no need for the last son of Krypton.

6. "Superman (It's Not Easy)," Five for Fighting (2001): The emo crowd just can't get with the notion of invincibility, can it?

5. "Superman," the Game (2008): The rapper's new track is a hilarious sendup of hip-hop breast-beating: "It's a bird, it's a plane/Naw . . . it's the . . . Game." It is a sendup, right?

4. "O Superman (For Massenet)," Laurie Anderson (1981): Performance art and minimalist music made it briefly into the mainstream when Anderson turned to the caped one for her hypnotic meditation on modern life.

3. "Sunshine Superman," Donovan (1966): The Scottish Bob Dylan paid his respects to the son of Jor-El at a time when substance experiments made anyone feel like he could fly.

2. "Superman," R.E.M. (1986): In his band's cover of this obscure the Clique song, Mike Mills (taking lead vocal duties from Michael Stipe) sounds a bit of a braggart, a bit of a stalker and a lot like Clark Kent in this jangling plea to the objet d'amour who's just beyond his reach.

1. "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman," the Kinks (1979): Once again, the Kinks' erudite Ray Davies takes the Everyman's viewpoint in this disco-rocker sung by a scrawny wimp yearning to be more like the Man of Steel.


Los Angeles Times Articles