To mark the election of a US President here are three tunes about former presidents. I have my own views on American politics and an interest which survived three years of studying it at university. I do not, however, have a vote so my opinion don’t amount to a hill of beans. Let us hope that the American electorate do the right thing.
This is the fearsomely named Attila the Hun with his calypso to mark the 1936 visit of F.D.Roosevelt to the island of Trinidad. Attila was a pioneer of the spread of Calypso beyond it’s Trinidadian birthplace. This sophisticated tribute to FDR’s “charming and genial personality and his wonderful urbanity” is a fine example of a musical style which did seem a little quaint and dated when I was first exposed to it. In 1972 Ry Cooder and Van Dyke Parks collaborated on Cooder’s LP “Into The Purple Valley” . It included an excellent version of this song. In the same year Parks released his own take on Caribbean rhythms and his own interpretation of “FDR In Trinidad”. It is a vibrant song which deserved rediscovery and an early indicator of the wit and intelligence West Indian music could bring to the table. Yeah Man !
A history lesson from They Might Be Giants about James K Polk, “our 11th President”. Geeky fun, “catchy weirdos”, it’s all good on the early TMBG records. When you write as many songs as this prolific duo there are bound to be a few duds but when they combine snappy hooks and clever lyrics it’s a good noise. The CD collection of the best of their work is essential for long car journeys, a singalong guaranteed to raise the spirits. This song tells you all you need to know about the political situation in 1844 and throws in a musical saw solo, always entertaining.
They Might Be Giants now concentrate on producing music for children. If there are little people around your house then you could do a lot worse than introducing them to these songs.
On Saturday mornings I shuffle across my flat and before even finding the kettle, I insert the Ramones CD into the player, select this track and turn up the volume. After 30 seconds of this burst of angry energy I (and the neighbours) am in better shape to enjoy my weekend. For a song about Ronald Raygun I considered Gil Scot-Heron’s vitriolic “Re-Ron” but come on…when the determinedly apolitical Ramones are stirred to respond to a president and produce, in my opinion, the finest of their later work.
Reagan in a former life a star of the movie “Bedtime For Bonzo”, in Germany for an economic summit visited a cemetary at Kolmeshohe, near Bitburg, as a gesture of German- American friendship. Turns out that no American soldiers were buried there but 49 members of the criminal Waffen SS were. Awful squirming damage control ensued. I guess that it’s events like this one which makes the selection of the Leader Of The Western World a matter of serious note.
If songs about American Presidents float your boat then there is a CD “Of Great and Mortal Men”, 43 songs for 43 Presidents. every one but Obama gets a tune. The man from Low and the wonderful Bill Callahan are among those involved…er…good luck with that.