Woody Woodpecker just had his 70th birthday. According to the 11/24/10 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the famous cartoon bird debuted in an animated short on that same date in 1940. The title was “Knock Knock,” and Woody would go on pecking wood and entertaining both kids and adults for over a half a century.
To honor the anniversary of Woody’s first show, I offer this playlist. All of the songs include some form of the word “knock” in their titles. My daughters suggested three modern songs – Keri Hilson’s Knock You Down, Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life, and Lil Wayne’s Knockout – but being only vaguely familiar with them I left them off.
10. “Knock Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder: This track is one of the many gems found on the R&B legend’s Songs in the Key of Life, along with “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Sir Duke,” and “I Wish.”
9. “Knock on Wood” by Amii Stewart: A high-energy oldie oldie, Stewart’s delivery and back beat serve as a harbinger of the funk and hip hop moves that were soon to follow.
8. “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J: This song was nearly as popular as MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” nearly two decades ago.
7. “Knock-Down Drag-Out” by Weezer: This song is the stand out track from Weezer’s green album. It exudes that guitar rock quality that has made Weezer so enduring.
6. “Headknocker” by Foreigner: The band’s debut in the 70s contained huge hits such as “Cold as Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time,” but this rock number was always my favorite.
5. “The Impression That I Get (Never Had to Knock on Wood)” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The 90s song, known mostly by its subtitle, is immortalized by its jumpy chorus and its exhilarating brass.
4. “I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmunds: One of my favorite tracks from 1970, this blues-rock tune introduced us to the singer/songwriter who co-founded Rockpile with Nick Lowe. I always enjoyed hearing Edmunds snarl the chorus, “I hear You Knocking, but you can’t come in.”
3. “Knock Three Times” by Tony Orlando and Dawn: The song is more memorable for its sound after “Twice on the pipe” than it is for the three raps in the title. It is one of an early string of hits for the group who would become big enough to host its own variety show in the mid-70s.
2. “TKO” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions: The appropriately punchy beat is provided by what the liner notes refer to as the TKO horns. It is the best track on Punch the Clock, even better than the single “Everyday I Write the Book.”
1. “Knockin’s on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan: Originally found on the soundtrack for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the tune became one of Dylan’s biggest hits. For a song that frequently mentions heaven, lines such as “It’s getting dark, too dark to see” give it a pessimistic feel.