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Song of the Day for July 8: "Mr. Spaceman" by The Byrds

Where would Roswell, New Mexico be without the Cold War? The small desert town created a cottage industry thanks to what happened when a rancher found some odd debris on his ranch. He brought it to the attention of the local sheriff, who turned it over to the Roswell Army Airfield commander.

On July 8, 1947 the commander released a statement that would make Roswell the UFO capital of the United States, if not the world. He said the military had gained possession of a flying disc. The next day the military clarified the statement, saying the debris was from a weather balloon.

The story barely had a heartbeat for the next couple of decades. The growing mistrust of government thanks to Vietnam and Watergate brought Roswell back to life in the late 1970s. Movies, books and television shows told the story, usually with their own twists. UFO enthusiasts began flocking to Roswell. A museum popped up, tour businesses flourished and festivals were held annually.

The majority questioned in a 1997 Time magazine poll believed aliens had landed in Roswell, and the government covered it up. An Air Force investigation released in 1994 said the debris was most likely from a classified military balloon spying on the Soviet Union’s nuclear testing. The military in 1947 didn’t want to release the sensitive information so it made up the weather balloon story.

The Byrds’ Song of the Day, “Mr. Spaceman,” was less mysterious. The group recorded “Mr. Spaceman” in 1966. Roger McGuinn, who wrote the song, said he hoped extraterrestrials might hear it in space, but he didn’t know at the time that AM airwaves diffuse in space too rapidly. But people were listening in Roswell and elsewhere. The song reached 36 on the Billboard 100 chart.

Fridays are when we enjoy a new weekly series that's part history, part trivia, and ALL music. The series features selections from former News-Press editor Sheldon Zoldan's '"Song of the Day." The initiative began as a daily lockdown project on Facebook at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, through which Zoldan highlights how every aspect of life has a connection through music.