A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

the sound of music in Lebanon (ii): sweating to the oldies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 4, 2007

I realized that my previous post on music in Lebanon had neglected a key musical phenomenon, one that extends around the region.


I am referring, of course, to the strange and persistent popularity of the Eagles’ 1976 hit, “Hotel California”.




My own introduction to the song came when I was eleven and joined the synchronized swimming team at our family’s country club.

For some reason, “Hotel California” was selected for the grand finale of our summer performance. How a song about drugs and rock and roll came to be considered appropriate for a group of 10 to 15 year old girls remains a mystery, but … it was.

It has somehow also become the go-to song for restaurants, mobile phones, muzak, and … gyms here in the region, as this morning’s workout reminded me. I filled my water bottle to the sounds of “she’s got a lot of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friends”, which was followed by Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” (which I remember first hearing as a small child via the Chipmunks’ version), and a … Sinatra ballad.

Working out to Sinatra is much like working out to Fairouz: deeply unsatisfying. The songs are beautiful, true; but their elegiac pace slows a run into a relaxed, meditative stroll.

Still, those two artists at least perform in the same register. But the Eagles? Why them – and why this song?

Sometimes I long for a bit of variety: a bit of “Dust in the Wind”, perhaps, or Don Henley’s “American Pie”. And sometimes I just long for an answer to the question of how this song got such a hold in the contemporary Middle East.


2 Responses to “the sound of music in Lebanon (ii): sweating to the oldies”

  1. Don Henley?!? The horror! “American Pie” is by Don McLean!

    I hate the Eagles. I can’t stand Bon Jovi. I despise Brian Adams. Unfortunately, all of them are tremendously popular in Lebanon. The music selected at karaoke nights and at many nightclubs is just atrocious, and sounds somewhat like the list of songs that were playing at the gym during your workout.

  2. intlxpatr said

    In Kuwait, every where I go they play”I Miss the Rains Down in Africa” (which I love, because I DO love the rains in Africa), and, from time to time, the Sultan Center goes a little clueless and plays their Christmas tape, no matter what the season. It just gives me a grin.

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