Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Some Music for Election Day

I thought this would appropriate in light of today's election.  As I was working for Thursday's presentation, I came across a video of Randy Newman sitting in what looks like his living room and videotaping himself sing a song called "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country."  Listening to this song, I couldn't help but be reminded of "Political Science," a much older song of Newman's that deals with similar themes.  But the purpose of the two songs couldn't be more different.  "Political Science" was released in 1972, while "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" was first performed live on tour in 2006 and released as a single in 2007.  Listening to the two songs gives a unique insight into the development of an artist's political ideas.

"Political Science" is probably most famous for it's ultimate political solution: "Let's drop the big one and see what happens."  "No one likes us," Newman sings, so the easiest way to deal with the world is just get rid of it and make "every city the whole world round/...just another American town." 

"A Few Words" couldn't be more different.  Newman admits that our country's having a tough time--he admits that America's "time at the top/ could be coming to an end."  But times like these, he says, are the times "we sure could use a friend."  Gone is the talk of making everyone else be like us--now, Newman just wants to be pals.  The song ends with a beautiful image:

"Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We're adrift in the land of the brave
And the home of the free."

It's hard not to think of the closing image of "Sail Away" when you hear those lines.

"Political Science"

"A Few Words in Defense of Our Country"


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