Denim and Music: An Enduring Love Story

Levi's John Legend

 Rock 'n' roll mouthwash aside, if ever a product was made for music, it is denim. The latest bunk-up between jeans and musicians is courtesy of Levi's, which has paired with a bunch of monster artists for its Levi's Pioneer Sessions. In return for an email address, you get to download a bunch of seminal tracks--as well as Technotronic's Pump Up The Jam, oddly enough--covered by musicians that include John Legend, Raphael Saadiq, Nas, Passion Pit, and Jason Mraz.

If you go back in Levi's advertising history, it's the firm that is probably responsible for turning a generation of kids into denim-wearing, retro-loving animals, after the onslaught of Punk and New Wave had laid waste to anything that remotely smacked of hippiedom. BBH's U.K. campaign for the San Francisco company in the mid-'80s turned moribund sales of their 501s into an 800% hike.

And it was so successful, they repeated the formula, including launching Brad Pitt onto an unsuspecting world. Twenty years on, Brad has almost enough kids to have a full-sized soccer team, and the jeans market is worth around $50 billion worldwide each year. That's a lot of legs--1.6 billion, to be exact.

Oddly enough, the crossover went the other way several years before the Levi's campaign. This song started up as a 30-second spot for Brutus jeans. So successful was it that Dundas wrote a song around it, released it and it got to No. 3 in the British charts.

One-hit-wonder Dundas aside, denim has been good to British artists. Elton John, who must be to denim what Peta is to Steak Tartare, opens up Tiny Dancer with the line "Blue jean baby/ L.A. lady/ Seamstress for the band," and David Bowie did it twice: Blue Jean (meh) and this:

Jeanius. Now, from the sublime, to the ridiculous. Here's Chingy, Dem Jeans. As far as I know, he didn't get any big-time sponsorship from a denim manufacturer, but he sure is search engine bait.

If you value your zen-like calm, then don't click here. And I've got a feeling I don't even have to mention Neil Diamond.

Will Ferrell, with his Diamond-esque campaign for Gap, however, gets a special mention. Less cowbell, more Frizz-ease--and denim.

Add New Comment

1 Comments

  • Sheena Medina

    There's a little under representation in this article of the prominence jeans have in popular hip-hop, r&b, funk, and soul music. The number one search result in Google for the term: "apple bottom jeans" yields the song "Low (Feat T-Pain)" by Flo Rida. And of course, let us not forget another popular song "In Those Jeans" by Ginuwine. Also, there is "Skinny Jeans" by New Boyz whom have sort of re-defined what it means to be a hip-hop hipster with their album "Skinny Jeans & A Mic."

    It's just a little misleading to post on Denim and Music (two very broad terms) and not be all inclusive when in comes to the story you tell on denim's relationship with music, which is more diverse than the examples depicted above.