Sunday, September 2, 2012

Campaign Songs: A Thing of the Past?

I make a point of being as non-political as possible and prefer to avoid controversial topics that I believe are irrelevant to the mission of this blog, but as most of my readers know, I am very music-oriented, so, at the risk of touching on the current storm of "vote this, vote that!" I am going to mention one issue that seems to be ignored (or at least down-played).

In 1960, I remember when John F. Kennedy was running for office. Frank Sinatra recorded 2 campaign songs for the candidate: "All the Way" and, my favorite, "High Hopes." I bought the 45-rpm (that's a small, vinyl record, to my under 30 readers) of the recording and played it almost to oblivion. ("Everyone wants to back Jack . . . Jack is on the right track . . . Cause he has High Hopes . . ." well, you get the idea). You can hear this here.

Campaign songs are hardly new. In fact, they provided a way to promote one's favorite candidate and/or discredit the opposition (something that is also not a new innovation . . . just more obvious in today's world of immediate communication). Check out some of the the sheet music for candidates of the past - remembered and long forgotten: Presidential Campaign Songs. Want more? Check some of the more recent selections from Gizmodo.

So far, I've heard that one music group asked Mitt Romney to discontinue using their song in his campaign promotion. Obama has not settled on a single piece but seems to have a repertoire of songs.

I think this could be a good gig for a song-writer: creating original pieces (with very catchy tunes, of course) for the preferred candidate. Why rework something that's already there (as seems to have been the common practice)? Unique is the word for this election; it should also be the word for the music. Or, if choosing a tune already in the nation's heads, select something that is in the public domain so as not to offend a composer or, big no-no, plagiarize or use something without proper permission (with use fees paid). There's lots to consider: "The Old Gray Mare," for instance (hmm, maybe not); or "Camptown Races" (I can hear it now: "Political Races, sing this song . . ." but I hesitate to suggest a substitute for "Doo-dah"). OK, how about "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain" (substitute "He" for "She" and "White House" for "Mountain"). Let's see, maybe "Skip to My Lou" ("Choose your candidate, skip to the poles" . . . maybe not).

Well, obviously this is not the gig for me, but someone should get these candidates some songs of their own or we will be forced to rely on Social Media for all the campaign propaganda. One with the catchiest song wins? And I think the rule should be only promotion of said candidate; no bad-mouthing the opposition (neither of Kennedy's songs said anything more harmful than that he could beat his opponent; no specific negative statements about the other party's choice).

That's as political as I get and I ask, if you decide to leave a comment, please leave off the political rhetoric (comments bad-mouthing or overly promoting either side will be deleted). Go to Facebook for that (though I have been unfriending those who have gone overboard in that area . . . Counting down to November when we can go back to saying positive things to each other in that arena).

Join in on the chorus, everybody sing along: "La-la-la-la-vote-la-la!"

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