I’m not sure what it was about the times, but for some reason, ‘90s rockers seemed to be all about Superman. Not that I mind, oh no, far from it, in fact, it’s stuff I really love.
Let’s start with the germ of the idea, which popped into my head when Solomon Grundy popped up on Gotham this season. Like a Pavlovian dog, Crash Test Dummies’ 1991 “Superman’s Song” came to mind, and I was immediately absorbed in the soothing dulcet bass tones of lead singer Brad Roberts, crooning that Superman “never made any money, saving the world from Solomon Grundy,” and despairing that “the world will never see another man like him.”
If you listen to it about 30 times, you really do gain a new appreciation for the Man of Steel, and you actually sympathize with him more, too. Maybe that’s why the band earned the 1991 Juno Award for group of the year? Or maybe it’s because the album it’s on, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, is a heroic effort in its own right, front to back.
Whatever the reason, other ‘90s bands were inspired by Superman, as well. Like the Spin Doctors, who, six months after “Superman’s Song,” were seemingly everywhere with “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues,” which finds the intrepid “little journalist” pining for Lois Lane, and bragging about his “pocket full of kryptonite” that will help keep Supes away for the night. Scandalous!
Then there’s Goldfinger, who are thankfully still ska-rocking in the Superman-insured free world, whose 1997 "Superman" was featured enthusiastically in Disney’s underappreciated Paul Walker, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Englund starrer, Meet the Deedles, as well as the Farrelly brothers’ borderline comedy classic, Kingpin. I’m sure Woody Harrelson would tell you the song was the linchpin behind the film’s success.
Or another ’97 tune, Our Lady Peace’s “Superman’s Dead,” a post-grunge look at a post-Superman world. Like Crash Test Dummies, OLP is a product of Canada, so who knows, maybe there’s something visionary about our Neighbors to the North looking down on America’s favorite superhero, eh?
Further evidence that Superman inspired solid ‘90s rock is 3 Doors Down’s 1999-recorded (2000-released) staple “Kryptonite,” which honestly, doesn’t make much sense: “If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman? If I'm alive and well, will you be there holding my hand? I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman might … Kryptonite.” Does that mean anything to anyone else?
And lastly, though it was recorded outside the cusp, in 2000, Five for Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” could never have blown up without standing on the shoulders of these aforementioned giants. These brilliant five artists (technically just one, Vladimir John Ondrasik III) show an even more humanistic side of our Kryptonian hero: the special things inside of Kal-El. Which brings our hero ever closer to our own fallible ways and, transversely, to our own heroic ones.