Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know-It-All

This song by Stevie Wonder, on his phenomenal social and musical achievement, the Innervisions album of 1973, takes on the 37th US president, Richard Nixon. Well, the lyrics detail an over-confident, know-it-all trickster. But it was widely figured to be about “Tricky Dick.”

You might today feel it applies to President Donald Trump, too, with verses like:

Makes a deal
With a smile
Knowin’ all the time that his lie’s a mile
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Must be seen
There’s no doubt
He’s the coolest one with the biggest mouth
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Also by Stevie Wonder and reviewed here:

Some other songs here about Richard Nixon:

Advertisements

Aimee Mann – Can’t You Tell?

Old school hipsters will want you to know that like them, you should appreciate Aimee Mann. She led 80’s new wavers ‘Til Tuesday, but has a longer, more distinguished, if low-key, solo career.

Today, with this song, Mann is singing as if she was 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

It is part of an artist’s campaign, sort of like these social media challenges of posting inspirational happenings for one month. This one, is 30 Days, 30 Songs, wanting a “Trump-Free America.”

Mann imagines “The Donald” as a sociopath who has no plan for America beyond winning. He can’t stop the damage he is wreaking, and would wreak more, if president. But that, Trump has a conscience and truly, privately wishes someone would put a stop to him getting the top political job of the land.

Who is to blame? Trump for, sure. But Mann as Trump suggests his supporters carry responsibility, too, wanting to crown Donald Trump and troll and lambaste his detractors. That’s an interesting point: Donald Trump is who he is, but what is it in the American political culture that has put this person in prominence?

One could argue, this instalment of 30 Days, 30 Songs could try to get into the minds of Trumpsters to better understand their feelings and motivations, and support for Trump. What gave rise to their stridency?

Mann doesn’t like Trump, and by extension, maybe his adherents, too? But the song even accords some humanity to the man. This is not just from it suggesting Donald wants off this runaway train, but through the tune’s fluid, effortless melody and soothing, jangly instrumentation.

It might be one of the sweetest salves of a protest song, despite Trump being so abrasive in style?

Bruce Cockburn – Call It Democracy


Canadian folkie Bruce Cockburn argued back in 1986, that the foreign policy of powerful countries is about making a buck, not lifting people in poor places out of their misery. As well, that international organizations are not benevolent, either. The International Monetary Fund is a target in one verse.

The IMF goes back to 1944, and on the face of it, with almost 200 member countries, seeks to encourage financial stability in countries dealing with low revenues, high debt, inflation, high unemployment, and more. The IMF works to foster international trade.

Cockburn figures the IMF does more harm than good, leaving developing countries in debt.

More generally, the IMF has been criticized for the conditions it has sometimes imposed on countries to get into their version of fiscal shape. This has meant getting troubled countries to reduce public spending to address government debt. The IMF has also been criticized for not been sensitive enough to local conditions and on-the-ground needs of the places it exists to serve.

Also by Cockburn: If A Tree Falls, If I Had A Rocket Launcher

Please leave a comment if the video is no longer available.

Hi-Caliber – Freedom-Enemy of the State

Hi-Cal was a construction worker from New Jersey, who after 9/11 became a Christian and starting calling himself a “Republican rapper.” He has performed for many thousands at Tea Party rallies, serenading this movement in their efforts to move the USA more to the right of the political spectrum.

Fans and experts of rap and hip hop might find Hi-Cal’s rhymes and beats to be pedestrian. But perhaps there is room for ideological diversity in all styles of music.

Perhaps we can now have a rap battle not of boasting but of political debate?

Jim Nabors – Back Home Again In Indiana

Jim Nabors is best known as a singer, and as doofus mechanic, Gomer Pyle, from the Andy Griffith Show, on TV. He sang this song, almost 100 years old now, each year at the pre-race ceremonies for the Indy 500 auto race.

The song is about a wanderer missing his home, the “Hoosier state” of Indiana.

Countries, states, towns and regions often have official songs. These can be national anthems, and official state or town songs. By “official,” that typically means the tune was chosen democratically, like ratified by a legislature.

Citizens still might more informally and conventionally, choose unofficial works of music to represent them. “Back Home In Indiana” is an example of this. The official state song of Indiana is “On The Banks of the Wabash, Far Away.”

Official or not, these songs in general tend to be patriotic. They may touch on the history, traditions, values and goals of a political community. Singing them may build and maintain a connection people have to where they live.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Rebels

Struggling to satisfactorily record this song back in 1985, Petty apparently hurt his hand, punching a wall.

The song’s narrator calls himself a rebel, born in Dixie.

By the dictionary, a rebel is a person who stands up for what they believe in, even if most others aren’t on the same page. Politically, a rebel could be a revolutionary or even a terrorist.

It is a debate whether citizens should have the right to rebel against their governments. Constitutions may entrench this, with freedoms of expression, speech and assembly (gathering, meeting). This typically means resistance using legal and conventional means. But violence can come from rebels.

And Petty is using the American Revolutionary War of the 18th century as a metaphor. This was the armed battles between Great Britain and the American colonies. These colonists – the rebels – resented British imposition of taxes.

More from Petty: American Girl

Ernest Van “Pop” Stoneman – The Titanic

Born in a log cabin, motherless from a toddler on, and proficient at many instruments, Stoneman (1893-1986) helped pioneer American country music. This song, from 1915 or 1916, is also known as “It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down” and “Titanic (Husbands and Wives).” Its composer is not known.

There is something about popular culture that loves tragedy, the way drivers also slow down to get a look at a car accident. Some critics of government like to claim that high profile accidents and disasters are used as excuses for further state intervention in our lives, and correspondingly, less personal freedom.

Thus, a ship sinking leads to oceanic regulations, the way a terrorist attack leads to phone tapping with the U.S. Patriot Act?

See also: Céline Dion – My Heart Will Go On