Gene Autry – Home On The Range

Cowboy multimedia star Autry does one of many versions of this unofficial anthem of the American West. It paints an idyllic, peaceful portrait of rural life, even if antelope aren’t quite native to the USA!

According to the 1961 book, “A New Treasury of Folk Songs,” by Tom Glazer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went and said this was his favourite song in 1933. This gave Home On The Range a resurgent, huge boost in popularity. Then, there was a rush to prove copyright and reap the rewards. To resolve things, the song was declared to be owned by all: in the “public domain.”

But in fact, the words come from a poem by someone named Brewster Higley, back in the 1870s. His friend, Daniel Kelley, provided the tune.

Diff’rent Strokes – Theme Song

Race relations in America were lightly addressed from 1978-1985, in this TV sitcom. Two African American orphans are adopted by a rich Park Avenue, widower/single Dad, who is white. An early episode has a social worker not believing that a white man should be raising African Americans.

Can popular culture, even through the “boob tube,” lead and shape public opinion? Another question could be this: is a comedy show that is meant to entertain, the right or best forum for such issues to be addressed.

Adam And The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier

From 1980, New Waver Adam Ant wears a Jimi Hendrix jacket, and sings about feeling like an American Indian under his skin. Is this campy or offensive?

One point made is that beneath the white skin is a “wild nobility,” a freedom and danger that stuffed-up Caucasians suppress. But as well, Adam sings of cultural imperialism: from “centuries of taming,” Native Americans may have lost their roots, too.

The tribal drum rhythms, though, may be more African. Whatever, call it world music, then!

Also by this band: Goody Two Shoes

Archie Bunker – Those Were The Days

This song is actually written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, who are known for Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie.” Of course, it’s performed by actors Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, and is the theme song from the 1970s television sitcom, “All In The Family.”

All In The Family” was set in the context of social changes in the 1970s, such as related to women’s liberation (feminism) and racial equality.

They lyrics express views similar to the ideology of conservatism, which dovetail with the views of the main character, Archie Bunker. Archie resisted the 1970s changes!

That’s because conservatism maintains reverence for the way things were, feeling that modern times change too fast, with untested, unproven ideas and reforms.

Specifically to the times, Archie felt that younger people had become dependent on government to bring them up and support them (“didn’t need no welfare state, everybody pulled their weight…” But in the past, people took care of themselves with initiative and elbow grease.

And the line, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great”? That’s a reference to a Buick automobile.

Beach Boys – Roll Plymouth Rock

“Smile” is the legendary Beach Boys album that consumed Brian Wilson in its development. This pastiche has the surfer boys harmonizing about American Indians losing their land and identity. A “ribbon of concrete” eroded a culture and history of an entire people.

Sort of that’s what this is about. Who knows! The reach could be broader than native Americans, because the song, sometimes or formerly known as Do You Like Worms, also puts into melody a Hawaiian thanksgiving prayer.

Lou Reed – Good Evening Mr. Waldheim

Kurt Waldheim was a Nazi oficer that later came to be the head of the United Nations. Lou Reed sings about putting controversial people in ironic positions of power, when you consider that the United Nations champions equal treatment of all.

He sings about the “common ground.” This usually means finding what ideas people share to unite them. Reed seems to mean this as giving other groups their fair shake, respect and acknowledging their past sacrifices and hardships.

Examples in the bouncy rocker are double standards for Reed: that some seek common ground with other groups in society, but not Jews? It is to him a reflexive anti-Semitism that is given a free pass. Reed feels this is hypocrisy from some people, like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Champions of racial equality in America can better appreciate what Jewish people have endured.