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What Yeardley Smith Thinks Of Lisa Simpson's Best Songs

"The Simpsons" is inarguably a deeply musical animated series — and not just because the show's theme song is one of Danny Elfman's most iconic compositions. Whether it's Homer Simpson's (Dan Castellaneta) Beatles-inspired barbershop quartet The Be Sharps singing "Baby on Board," Apu (Hank Azaria) belting out "Who Need the Kwik-E-Mart," or Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer) disturbingly celebrating skinning animals with "See My Vest," "The Simpsons" has always been home to some of the best musical numbers ever committed to the small screen.

And while you could argue that every member of the Simpson clan is musical, there is no one more musical than the rest: everyone's favorite bluesy vegetarian Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith). Before Homer sang a single bar of "Mr. Plow," Lisa was already a gifted saxophone player — or, as Homer would say "saxomohphone." And whether it was her friendship with Oscar "Bleeding Gums" Murphy or that the reason she's a vegetarian at all is because of a deal made between "The Simpsons" producers and Paul and Linda McCartney for a cameo, everything about Lisa Simpson is overachievingly musical.

In over 30 seasons of television, Lisa Simpson has sung on well over 100 songs, many of which are Lisa solo jams. And as luck would have it, the A.V. Club recently sat down with Yeardley Smith to talk about what she remembers about some of Lisa's greatest hits.

How Lisa's moaning turned into a hit record

As we've mentioned, Lisa Simpson's musical story begins with the saxophone and her love of the blues. While Season 1 of "The Simpsons" features a different art style and a much more disgruntled, slightly smarter Homer with a Walter Matthau-esque voice, Lisa was already Lisa. And nothing helps you understand her like "Moaning Lisa" — a blues duet she does with Bleeding Gums Murphy that concludes with her singing, "I'm the saddest kid in grade number two." "It's this great, sophisticated, charming mixture of this child who's an old soul, singing about the things that turn her day upside down," Smith told The A.V. Club about the classic tune. "I loved it."

Lisa Simpson's love of the blues was so infectious, it turned into an album. "The Simpsons Sing the Blues" was released on December 4, 1990, where it made it all the way up to No. 3 on the Billboard 200. "It was such an incredible dream come true," Smith said of making that record. "I probably worked on it for three or four days, the actual singing part, and it makes you feel like, 'Oh, man, I can really sing. This is fantastic.' For all you know, they're auto-tuning you as they play it back, but that's okay."

One last song for the Jazzman

"Moaning Lisa" connected Lisa Simpson and Bleeding Gums Murphy in a profound and musical way. Five seasons later, in the Season 6 episode "'Round Springfield" the terrestrial tether between these two sax players was severed when Murphy died in the hospital after blowing all his money on his $1,500-a-day Fabergé egg addiction.

Lisa's emotions often drive her to do the right thing, and, with Murphy gone, the only thing she feels she can do is to get his record "Sax on the Beach" played by the local jazz station. It's a chance for people to appreciate Murphy and keep him alive. And naturally, the episode concludes with Murphy appearing as a face in the clouds so he and Lisa can perform together one more time, the result of which is a touching cover of Carole King's "Jazzman."

"When he died on the show, I just thought, 'Wow,'" Yeardley Smith explained. "It was [the] ultimate blow of, 'Let's give Lisa something, and 22 minutes later, we'll take it away.' I just thought, 'Oh, how do you do that to my girl?' Because they had such a wonderful bond. They were these great soulmates. Even though they were different generations, they understood the same things. And he taught her so much, and he did it with such compassion and generosity. I was very sad about that."

Lisa sings for her hero, Homer

Every member of the Simpson family has a potent bond with the show's patriarch, Homer. Bart (Nancy Cartwright) antagonizes Homer but wants to be like him, Marge (Julie Kavner) is equal parts exhausted and exhilarated by her husband's shenanigans, and little Maggie loves her dad with reckless abandon. But Lisa's relationship with Homer is special, because, despite how disappointingly selfish and sophomoric he can be, he is Lisa's hero. And in true, brilliant "The Simpsons" fashion, the Season 4 episode "Last Exit to Springfield" shows Homer being the type of hero he so often is — an accidental one. 

The episode centers around Lisa needing braces as Mr. Burns takes Homer and the rest of the nuclear power plant workers' dental insurance away. And inept though he may be, Homer somehow becomes a union leader and helps regain the dental insurance — with a little help from Lisa's "Union Strike Folk Song." It's one of those full-circle moments where Lisa believes in her father, and her belief sees that the two of them rise above their circumstances to snatch victory from the hands of defeat. Homer gets to quit as union leader and Lisa gets her braces.

Yeardley Smith revealed that fans love Lisa's song and the episode it was used in. "The 'Union Strike Folk Song' was a pretty perfect fit," she told The A.V. Club. "I love that she was out there by herself. I love that it's sort of an old school way to stake your protest. And I was so surprised, I'm still surprised, that it's a fan favorite. I've had a lot of correspondence on Twitter and stuff about that song and people remembering it fondly."

"The Simpsons" is streaming now on Disney+ and Hulu.