Why Do People Like To Eat And Buy And Sing About Dirt?

“Eating dirt was forbidden. I was old enough to understand that. But I could. not. help. myself. My mother would often find me next to a houseplant, black streaks covering my mouth and hands. “Have you been eating dirt?” she would ask. I would solemnly shake my head. The perfect crime. Except for that telltale black ring around my mouth.”
 — The Last Word On Nothing’s Cassandra Willyard opens up about her past as a compulsive geophagist. She does so in relating the new scientific theory that the consumption of dirt (a phenomenon among children and pregnant women around the world) might have more to do with protection against pathogens and parasites than hunger. (“Like a mud mask for our gut,” Cornell researcher Sera Young told Livescience earlier this month.)

Sometime this summer, Willyard will likely be able to purchase a tablespoon-size portion of the dirt into which New York Yankee’s star Derek Jeter will have dug his cleats if and when he gets the 3,000th hit of his career. There are big plans to exhume the batter’s box and sell it in capsules that hang from keychains, etc.

“That bucket of dirt will go a long way,” said Brandon Steiner, the chairman of Steiner Sports, who has a memorabilia partnership with the Yankees and a marketing deal with Jeter.

But once you buy it, you can do whatever you want with it.

In honor of the approach of Jeter’s milestone accomplishment and the impressive consumerist frenzy that will follow, and of Willyard’s forthcomingness, here are sixteen great songs about dirt. A veritable smorgasbord!

I think that song is actually called “Downtown Dirt,” not “Uptown Dirt.” Either way, I love it. (The way Lou Reed writes about dirt, and dirty things, too, like boulevards, etc., makes you wonder whether he has a geophagist past himself. I wouldn’t be surprised.)

There are a million songs about dirty things — work, pool, South — but dirty boots would seem to dirty with actual dirt, soil, of the kind that geophagists might like to eat. So that’s the organizing principle in effect here.