Jackie Shane – Any Other Way

U.S. born Jackie Shane lived in Canada and some like to think he is a relative of Little Richard. This song, a cover, became popular in Canada in 1962.

What’s political is Shane is seen to be using the word ‘gay’ in the lyrics for its sexual orientation connotation, and not simply as a synonym of ‘happy.’ This double meaning was not mainstream back then.

“Tell her that I’m happy/tell her that I’m gay”

The singer was a gay performer who often dressed in drag, and to many today, is seen as an early LGBT artist. Rumours are he is no longer alive, in hiding, or incognito, living her life today, as a transgender woman.

Katrina & The Waves – Walkin’ On Sunshine

This 1985 tune earns about $1 million per year in royalties for the band. You’ve heard it in movies like High Fidelity, American Psycho and Daddy Day Care. And on TV shows like The Gilmore Girls and The Drew Carey Show. If a program needs to emphasize some good feelings, this song is the go-to choice.

You can appreciate politicians would try to latch on to this poppy infectiousness.

Republican Michele Bachmann represented Minnesota from 2007-2015, in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is known as a Tea Party supporter. When campaigning for President in 2012, the politician played this song.

Katrina and her Waves objected! Did Michele even ask?

The band had other catchy tunes, but fall into the one-hit wonder category. Too, Bachmann dropped out of the presidential race, but has the distinction of being Minnesota’s first female federal Congresswoman, at least for her party.

Still, Tom Petty was not a fan of Bachmann, either: American Girl.

Don McLean – American Pie

Too bad a Google search of “American Pie” today will bring up the raunchy and juvenile teen sex comedy films. Especially when you meant this impressive 1971 song that, while it has cryptic lyrics, is thought mostly to be about grieving for the death of Buddy Holly.

Sorry, but arguably, the many references in the song to religion, communism, the Beatles and The Byrds, nuclear war… and so on, point to a rambling, stream of consciousness narrative that has no cohesive theme or ultimate message. The artist has never been too clear.  So perhaps what makes American Pie great art is how it allows us to read into it, what is meaningful to us. Yet, the many verses also evince a nostalgia for days gone by, which is also an important feeling and even ideology, related to politics.

Conservatism is an ideology that has reverence for the past, even to the extent of being cautious today, when major public policy changes are announced that might be untested.

Nonetheless, in keeping with the lament for the good old days, no doubt many youngsters are mistaken that the song is by Madonna:

The Spokesmen – The Dawn Of Correction

The name Spokesmen is a rhetorical device to suggest the artists were speaking for the majority. Given that they had this song and pretty much vanished, may suggest the weight of public opinion wasn’t wholly with them. The song is a glass-half-full response to Barry McGuire’s more nihilistic anti-war song, Eve Of Destruction.

The Spokesmen argued that it is the role of Western countries to defend freedom from communist countries, and that a nuclear arsenal is necessary given the military strategy of mutually assured destruction (no side in a conflict is going to start a war that will also see them completely wiped out). The artists put a spin on racism and segregation by saying that at least the USA permits peaceful protests.

As with most political debates, there are two sides, if not more, to the story. The Dawn of Correction is widely lambasted, so for the sake of argument, let’s say something good about it:

What is special about this song is it is rare for a conservative viewpoint to be expressed in a folk-type song, especially from this 1960s era. And further, it is a helpful contribution for us to compare with Eve Of Destruction, if ony to learn of different opinions on important issues. Let’s also note Dawn of Correction’s unfashionable message certainly took courage to communicate back then, too!

Castaways – Liar, Liar

This classic 1960s garage rock tune by one-hit wonders The Castaways is clearly about a man disappointed in his philandering girlfriend.

Voters hate when politicians lie and expect from them an absolute honesty at all times. Voters have a higher standard of their elected representatives than they do of themselves! Perhaps cognizant of this double standard, citizens often return dishonest politicians to office come election time. As if to sing, from this song:

In spite of your cheatin’, still love you so
I’ll be unhappy if I let you go

Men Without Hats – Pop Goes The World

Canadian new wavers, also known for The Safety Dance, had a top 20 novelty hit in this, from 1987, which is mostly about two musicians, Johnny and Jenny, seeking fame. Canadian artists since rock and roll began have struggled to “penetrate” the US market, with its massive population (relative to Canada), and thus sales potential.  The album is the same name, and could be considered a lighthearted concept album, and curiously or deliberately uses toy piano like sounds and melodies that were already passé by the time of release – as if daring Americans to like it.

The lyric:

And every time I wonder where the world went wrong,
End up lying on my face going ringy dingy ding dong

…may sum up precisely the frustrations in politics of “making a difference,” be that peace in the Middle East, reducing child poverty, ending violence against women, balancing government budgets, even getting potholes filled on city streets!

Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky

Modern liberal democracies tend to separate the Church and the state, making religion mostly part of private life. This can be because the role of the state is to be an impartial arbiter between different interests in society – the state shouldn’t appear beholden to a particular religion. And because government in representing all citizens, shouldn’t take sides, especially in pluralist societies with more than one faith. The separation of Church and state can also be about trying to keep the government away from messing with religion; perhaps this is part of what American founder Thomas Jefferson meant:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State-1802 letter to Danbury Baptist Association.

While today, contemporary Christian music is its own massive industry, back in 1969, there was still an informal separation between the music industry and songs of worship. Reprise Records had qualms about releasing such a religious song as Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky. Would a tune looking forward to death to reach heaven be too controversial for radio?

It became a massive hit for this one-hit wonder artist, combining the psychedelic with gospel music. The artist also later allowed the tune to be used for an American Express commercial. Hopefully, that was not contradicting the teachings of Jesus not to love money too much.

Spirit in the Sky became a #1 again in 1986 (in the UK), with another band of one-hit wonders, the cartoonish Doctor and the Medics: