“American” songs

It’s the 4th of July again. This time around I want to talk a little about songs that I think are uniquely American. Well, that’s “Proud to be American,” or maybe something by Sousa right? No, not what I mean. Those types of songs could be written or performed anywhere. Paeans to nationalism are always welcomed by whoever is in power. The 4th of July always reminds me of rebelliousness and I want songs that typify that. I’ve lived in a country where these sorts of songs would not be allowed to air, but they are considered classics here. Now that’s American…

 

First up is “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This song seems to be misunderstood as often as “Every Breath You Take by The Police and “The One I Love” by R.E.M. I have no idea how though. “Fortunate Son” starts with the line, “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag. Ooh they’re red, white, and blue.” Seemingly this is as far as most people listen. It was played a lot for the 4th of July and other patriotic holidays. That lone line was also featured in a Wrangler ad complete with a waving American flag. Somehow the meaning of the chorus “It ain’t me!” eludes people even though they sing along with it. I’m pretty sure it came out in 68 or 69 and is clearly an anti-war, anti-powers that be song.

I ain’t no Senator’s son.

I ain’t no military son.

I ain’t no millionaire’s son.

It ain’t me…

It’s the kind of song that governments everywhere would ban, especially during wartime, but not here! Given the times, it was quite a bit edgier than it sounds now but is still a powerful song. Check out this performance from 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall. Can anything be more American? The look, the sound? The message?

 

 

The next song is also a protest one. There’s no question that black folks have had a rough time at the hands of the police over the ages. That’s the basis of “Sound of Da Police” from KRS-1. He weaves an amazing line between modern police forces and the overseers on southern plantations. He doesn’t allude to slavery, he doesn’t suggest that there are parallels, he says that the same thing is happening today. Once again, a direct confrontation of authority, all centered around the legacy of American slavery. Now that’s American! Can you imagine some of the founding fathers penning something similar? OK, maybe not but the same sentiment was there!

 

Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police! That’s the sound of the beast!
Stand clear! Don man a-talk
You can’t stand where I stand, you can’t walk where I walk
Watch out! We run New York
Police man come, we bust him out the park
I know this for a fact, you don’t like how I act
You claim I’m sellin’ crack
But you be doin’ that
I’d rather say “see ya”
Cause I would never be ya
Be a officer? You wicked overseer!
Ya hotshot, want to get props and be a savior
First show a little respect, change your behavior
Change your attitude, change your plan
There could never really be justice on stolen land
Are you really for peace and equality?
Or when my car is hooked up, you know you want to follow me
Your laws are minimal
Cause you won’t even think about lookin’ at the real criminal
This has got to cease
Cause we be getting hyped to the sound of da police!
Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police! That’s the sound of the beast!
Now here’s a likkle truth
Open up your eye
While you’re checking out the boom-bap, check the exercise
Take the word “overseer,” like a sample
Repeat it very quickly in a crew for example
Overseer
Overseer
Overseer
Overseer
Officer, Officer, Officer, Officer!
Yeah, officer from overseer
You need a little clarity?
Check the similarity!
The overseer rode around the plantation
The officer is off patrolling all the nation
The overseer could stop you what you’re doing
The officer will pull you over just when he’s pursuing
The overseer had the right to get ill
And if you fought back, the overseer had the right to kill
The officer has the right to arrest
And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest!
(Woop!) They both ride horses
After 400 years, I’ve got no choices!
The police them have a little gun
So when I’m on the streets, I walk around with a bigger one
(Woop-woop!) I hear it all day
Just so they can run the light and be upon their way
Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police! That’s the sound of the beast!
Check out the message in a rough stylee
The real criminals are the C-O-P
You check for undercover and the one PD
But just a mere Black man, them want check me
Them check out me car for it shine like the sun
But them jealous or them vexed cause them can’t afford one
Black people still slaves up til today
But the Black police officer nah see it that way
Him want a salary
Him want it
So he put on a badge and kill people for it
My grandfather had to deal with the cops
My great-grandfather dealt with the cops
My great grandfather had to deal with the cops
And then my great, great, great, great, when it’s gonna stop?!
Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police! That’s the sound of the beast!

 

 

Both of these songs were made in order to resist overbearing authority, I think that’s a fitting legacy. Happy Independence Day everyone!