Monday, February 20, 2012
Rockin' Out On Presidents Day
Among its many notable days (Black History Month, Groundhog's Day, Valentine's Day - the latter occurring in the month also designated as National Condom Month and National Mend a Broken Heart Month), "Festive February" marks the birthdates of American presidents Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22), the latter purportedly the "Father of Our Nation" - albeit in the days before paternity testing. And while cynics like me tend to view President's Day (February 20) as more of a capitalist pretext for a shopping spree than a real holiday, a number of musicians have found inspiration in these guys.
President's Day: a time to KISS you money goodbye?
So, in the spirit of the day, here are my favorite Presidents Day Tunes!
*** ABRAHAM LINCOLN (February 12) ***
The Skeptics - "Ghost of Abraham Lincoln"
Frederick, MD's own Skeptics (guitarist Andy McCutcheon, bassist Dennis Crolley, drummer Stephen Blickenstaff) pay homage to The Great Emancipator, "honest Abe, long tall Abe, good old Abe" - whose ghost is out to find John Wilkes Booth and kick his conspiratorial thespian ass.
Abe has a bone to pick with John Wilkes Booth
This video was directed by local boy-made-good Chris LaMartina, who as director of the horror-gore-galore film President's Day (2010) knows a thing or two about Mr. Lincoln! (See City Paper's "The Golden Abe of Horror," 2/10/2010.)
*** GEORGE WASHINGTON (February 22) ***
Cox & Combes - "Washington"
"Cox & Combes" is the alias of Brad Neely, a comic book artist and television writer/producer (South Park). Though we've all heard the mythic tales of our first Prez who couldn't lie when he cut down cherry trees and who single-handedly won the War of Independence, it's refreshing to learn that these deeds were merely the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Neely informs us that no only was George six-foot-eight (bigger than life!) and blessed with "two sets of testicles so divine" (you need hefty hydraulics power to be able to father your country), but he also ate redcoats's brains and invented cocaine. (Knowledge is power, kids!)
*** THE OTHER PRESIDENTS WE HONOR ON THIS DAY ***
Though Presidents Day officially associates itself with Washington’s Birthday (and thus is celebrated on the third Monday of February, which is closest to George's February 22nd birthdate), it's still regarded as a day to honor all former presidents of the US of A. Here's a good way to remember the other chiefs we once hailed.
The Animaniacs celebrate "The Presidents" up through Clinton.
Nickelodeon sings "Presidents Song" up through George W.
Thanks to They Might Be Giants, President James K. Polk ("The Napoleon of the Stump"!) gets his due in song, too.
Watch TMBG's "James K. Polk."
Of course, Robert Smigel's Saturday Night Live videos have ensured that we don't forget about the superheroic exploits of the more recent X-Presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush.
Watch the "X-Presidents."
But for a definitive list of Presidential Pop, I kowtow to A.V. Club's definitive "Hails to the Chief: 70 songs about American presidents" that lists everything from The Blind Robins' "That Goddamn Herbert Hoover"/"We'd Like To Thank You Herbert Hoover" (from the Annie soundtrack) and The Ramones "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" (not to mention Zappa's "Reagan at Bitburg") to Ashford & Simpsons' "Solid (As Barack)." Their list even credits Devo's "Whip It" - ostensibly about sex and masochism - as being a call out ("When a problem comes along, you can whip it!") to a beleaguered Jimmy Carter, who was was at the time beset by the Double Whammy of the recession and the Iranian hostage crisis.
But one of my faves is The Legendary K.O.'s "George Bush Don't Like Black People," one of the many George W. Bush ditty-disses.
Watch "George Bush Don't Like Black People."
*** More Festive February Working Holidays Songs ***
OK, on a related note...Festive February made me think back to Simple Machines Records' great "Working Holidays" series of 7" vinyl singles from the early '90s. One of these was the split single for February that featured two local bands - Lungfish 's "Abe Lincoln" and The Tinklers' "James Brown" (an homage to Black History Month by the whitest of white boy bands!). I remember it had a wraparound picture sleeve with the month's calendar on the reverse side. According to Charles Browawn, The Tinklers wrote the poetic intro to "James Brown," but the song itself came from a 1970 Folkways LP called Ghetto Reality by Nancy Dupree and her elementary school class.
Watch The Tinklers' "James Brown."
Listen to Lungfish's "Abe Lincoln."
The rest of SMR's "Working Holidays" releases are shown below: