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Classical Notes

Baroque 'n' roll

Posted at 10:40 AM on November 14, 2006 by Don Lee
Filed under: Johann Sebastian Bach

You may have read the news that former members of the band Procol Harum are fighting over authorship of the organ melody in their 1967 hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." You have to wonder about the grounds for the claim, since the tune obviously owes its existence to Bach's "Air on a G String"--a theme from his Orchestral Suite No. 3. The "theft" from Bach has been openly admitted by Gary Brooker, the Procol Harum member now earning royalties for the "Whiter Shade" music.

The news got me thinking about other Bach-to-rock conversions, and one came immediately to mind: "A Lover's Concerto" by the Toys (1965). But in Googling to confirm my long-held assumption, I learned here that the Toys' echt source was one Christian Petzold, not Bach after all.

Now I'm stuck. I can't think of any other examples of Bach making it to the Top 40. No doubt there's a Web site out there that lists numerous instances, but that's too easy. It's more fun to riffle through the mental catalogue. If you'd like to help, post a comment below.