Inauguration Special! Songs of Hope & Change

January 20, 2009

For today’s very special event, Ryan and I thought we’d post some songs that would apply to the grand changing of the guard.  Some time ago, when it looked less likely that Obama would make it this far, I posted a list of songs that gave me hope.

Here are the songs I’m feelin’ for this moment:

First, some change (i.e. songs that were not blasted at President Bush as he left the building, but were on my internal playlist):

1. “Hit the Road, Jack,” Ray Charles.  While, overall, it’s about an unfaithful dude, I think it can easily apply to our dear ex-President (Oh, how it warms my heart to write that prefix!).  Regardless of one’s political position in general, it’s impossible to think he left the country in better shape than when he found it.  It’s like he was a louche who was unfaithful to the entire country by ignoring things at home in favor of messing around abroad, and then screwing it up with both ladies.  Er, I mean countries.

2. “Valerie Plame,” The Decemberists.  It’s a great song.  And also a great reminder at just how low the Bush administration stooped during its tenure.  Your husband lets the world know that there was no validity to the claim that Niger was selling uranium cake to Iraq?  Well, kiss your cover goodbye!  And your career!  And perhaps your safety!  Oh, what a class act, that Bush team!  Still, it’s a catchy little tune.

And now for some hope:

1.  “This Land Is Your Land,” the version with Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen at the pre-Inauguration concert on MLK Day.  OK, there’s just something heart-warming about an 89-year-old man in a silly ski cap, jeans, and workshirt singing his heart out in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  There’s something awesome about seeing a man who has given his life to folk music and politics look so darned happy.  He could have been just another Harvard dropout, but instead he dedicated his life to promoting progressive politics, from the 1930s labor movement to the Civil Rights movement to protests against the Vietnam War.  Remember, Pete Seeger loves this country, even if he was blacklisted as a dirty commie pinko in the 1950s.

2. Aretha Franklin, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the Inauguration.  Soul music was integrally tied to the Civil Rights movement.  Though Aretha sang songs of a more personal nature than, say, James Brown, she and her family were heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement (her father, preacher C.L. Franklin, brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to Detroit).  Aretha’s voice may not be the divine instrument it was 40 years ago, but I love seeing her there, with her giant felt bow on her hat, singing about letting freedom ring.  This song gives me hope that we can look back in 40 more years and see that today is both a culmination of one struggle and a starting point for another push toward equality for all people.

P.S. Oh noes!  Why did John Williams do an arrangement of “Simple Gifts”?  Ain’t that the job of Aaron Copland?  I guess that would be “change,” but JOHN WILLIAMS?  I love Star Wars as much as the next person, but Copland is synonymous with American music.  Sigh.

Stay tuned for Ryan’s additions to this list!

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