There are far too few songs that celebrate start-ups, entrepreneurs, and growth, so when I find ‘em, I love ‘em.
It’s no secret that one by-product of our government schools is the driving out of the formal educational system of creatively-inclined and inspired people. Our greatest actors, artists, and musicians too often fail to graduate high school, and relatively rarely complete college. Ken Robinson does the most beautiful TED talk on the need for our schools to do a better job of keeping the creative kids engaged and blossoming.
As a result, a depressing feature of being pro-growth or wanting to encourage entrepreneurialism, is that most of your favorite music is made by high-school dropouts, who are too often innumerate, unschooled in economics, and ill-prepared to look beyond first-order effects.
Factory shutting down? Must be the greed of the owner.
That the true cause may be differential returns to improving educational attainment and capital deployment across differing tax and regulatory regimes not only escapes the typical bard, it doesn’t even rhyme.
So when I bought the entire back catalog of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits that I didn’t already own earlier this weekend, I had no inkling of the growth paean within.
There’s a catchy tune on the album Shangri-La called “Boom, like that”. Have a listen yourself:
It mentions going up to San Bernadino, and has aggressive-sounding lines like “my name’s not croc, it’s crok with a ‘k’” and “it’s dog-eat-dog and rat-eat-rat.”
I just presumed, without even thinking about it, that it had something to do with drug runners or a gang of shady characters or somesuch personages that typically haunt rock verse.
Well, dang, the song got stuck in my head (what the Germans call an “earworm”) and I put it on repeat this morning. After a dozen times through, I had to find the lyrics:
I’m going to San Bernadino ring-a-dng-ding
Milkshake mixers that’s my thing
These guys bought a heap of my stuff
And I gotta see a good thing sure enough
Oh my name’s not Croc, that’s Kroc with a ‘K’
Like ‘crocodile’ but not spelled that way
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that
You gentlemen ought to expand
You’re going to need a helping hand
So, gentlemen, well, what about me?
We’ll make a little business history
Oh. My. Goodness.
It’s a song about Ray Kroc founding McDonald’s!
And it celebrates his entrepreneurial vision and drive!
And it rhymes and rocks!
The whole album, Shangri-La, is great, by the way, but I think this song is a special treasure. Thanks Mark Knopfler!
How do we encourage more of this?
I don’t think you can. Directly.
There’s an old saying that my high school English teacher taught me: “If a poem is written to pay a bill, chances are it never will.”
And I think the same works for political or message-driven music. You can’t ask for, or request, creative output on a topic, theme, or idea.
There’s nothing so ponderous as a song written to Enlighten. The better art patrons throughout the ages have understood this.
But what you can do is inspire: sharing stories, engaging in the conversation, building the community. To the extent we entrepreneurs make creatives a part of the drama, we’ll encourage and allow for more works celebrating growth and entrepreurialism.
And to the extent we overlook our creatively-minded colleagues in the world, well… we’ll be missing out on more great songs such as “Boom, Like that.”
In addition to depicting Ray Kroc’s lunatic vision and personal energy, the story is expertly told.
For the business-minded, the most fascinating aspect is that — restaurants costing a lot of money to build and the tastes of the public being notoriously fickle — the fast food industry was almost impossible to finance before McDonald’s came along. Their genius CFO, Harry Sonneborn, figured out that pitching the business as a real estate business to the banks made those banks feel a lot more comfortable and secure than pitching it as a foods business.
Sometimes the success of your venture is sown in surprising, hidden corners.