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Denim and Music: An Enduring Love Story

Levi's John Legend

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.

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