Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ecclesiastes meets the Messiah, Taft in a Boat, and why we didn't Click with Dick

Red Stick Rant wrote a post that looks at an Obama grassroots campaign song and compares it to the types of songs that North Koreans spontaneously compose in honor of their Revered Leader.

Judge for yourself:

I did a YouTube search, and found that children aren't the only ones singing Obama's praises. Here are some adults doing the same:

And perhaps "cult of personality" is the appropriate way to describe these songs. But upon further reflection, I realized that Barack Obama is not the first one to have campaign songs sung about him. Clifford, there is nothing new under the sun.

(Actually, in order to make Clifford feel at home, I should not be referring to the Bible, but to the Millennium Development Goals website, which states:

History is filled with examples of ‘ordinary people’– rather we should call them ‘everyday heroes’ – successfully pressuring policymakers to more genuinely and courageously confront human tragedies.

Speaking of human tragedies, how about political campaign songs of the past? Some examples:

When William Howard Taft ran in 1908--a song titled "Get on a Raft with Taft" said it all about who the right candidate was--with the thought of rotund Taft in a raft showing everybody he didn't take himself too seriously. At the time, that was appealing--but obviously shifted depending on the mood of the country.

Then came the 1950s and 1960s:

Irving Berlin was probably the greatest American songwriter extant in 1952--so it was only appropriate that he was hired by Dwight D. Eisenhower's campaign people to write a campaign ditty. The result was "I Like Ike" that ultimately turned into one of the most likable and popular campaign songs of the 20th century.

While Kennedy appropriated a song (fittingly, sung by Frank Sinatra) for his 1960 campaign, Nixon used an original song. He didn't win.

Any candidate today using a campaign song called "Click with Dick" would create the loudest guffaws heard the world over.

Yes, "Click for Dick." And I don't even think the Plumbers were around to come up with THAT harebrained idea.

Both major candidates came up with originals - or at least original lyrics - for 1964:

"Hello, Lyndon" was the song associated with [Lyndon Johnson's] campaign, and it was sung to the tune of the title song of the popular Broadway play Hello, Dolly. Jerry Herman reworked the words exclusively for Johnson. Johnson's opponent, Barry Goldwater, had an original song called "Go With Goldwater" by Tom McDonnell and Otis Clements.

After that time, most if not all of the candidates chose to skip the original songs and choose songs that people already knew. Sometimes they ran into trouble for doing so. The best of these campaign songs, however, was the one chosen for Ross Perot in 1992:

Only a few days ago, Ross Perot had predicted a last-minute surprise, and Monday he delivered. "I found the theme song for our campaign," Perot told supporters here halfway into his standard stump speech. "And here it comes."

With that cue, a Dixieland band hired to warm up the crowd suddenly started playing. "We're crazy," crooned the band leader, improvising on the famous Patsy Cline song "Crazy."

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