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In July, Dr. Mary Davis started as dean of FIT’s School of Graduate Studies. She used to chair the music department at Case Western Reserve University—and she was the university liaison to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hue is jealous.

Davis loves rock and roll, and she knows how to talk about it. Hue asked her to name her three favorite songs of all time. This is what she said.

1. “Aretha Franklin plays a role in American History—as a woman, in the civil rights movement, and, over the arc of her career, for the evolution of music. Think is an empowerment song. It’s got a great vibe. She always had an incredibly tight band, and she’s a total perfectionist in keeping everything solid and well controlled. The freedom you hear in her voice—what comes across as pure, raw power and spontaneity—there’s something way more complicated going on behind that.”

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“Without Aretha, we wouldn’t have Lady Gaga. Aretha pioneered wigs and crazy theatricality. Though Aretha never wore a meat dress—to my knowledge, at least.”

2. “Bring it On Home to Me by Sam Cooke is a soulful late-night song from 1962. It’s a pop song, but it’s also very sexy. The song marks the moment when pop music shifted over from an orchestral sound to the roots of rock and roll. You can hear the orchestra interacting with him—he’s got an incredible voice—and then you hear a sax section. The classical strings and the low-down, raunchy club music find a meeting place in the song.”

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“When I worked with the Rock Hall, we honored an important figure in rock and pop for a week every year. Sam Cooke was our American Music Master for 2005. I’ll never forget this: During the tribute concert, Morgan Freeman was singing Bring it On Home to Me in my ear during the performance.”

3. “Tom Petty is one of my favorite artists of all time. His lyrics are compelling narratives, all condensed into three minutes. He really understands the human condition. Like Aretha, he is a total perfectionist, and he has a driving band influenced by early ’70s rock and a little bit of punk. The juxtaposition of personal lyrics and kick-ass music comes through in a lot in his songs.”

“It’s hard for me to pick one song. I love Free Fallin’. It’s built out of three chords, over and over again. Out of nothing more than the most basic elements of music, he built a whole world.”

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