John Kerry: Yep, you guessed it: he was “Born in the USA.”
With John Kerry emerging from as the Democratic frontrunner, it’s time to turn our attention to an important aspect of his campaign. Since we live in a country where a washed-up pop star’s almost entirely obscured nipple being exposed by a soon-to-be washed-up pop star dominates the news cycle more than, say, the death of 20 year-old 3rd Squadron soldier on the same day in Haditha, Iraq (that’s 527 Americans, if you’re still keeping count), perhaps this is the most important aspect of the campaign.
John Kerry’s campaign song.
The Clinton/Gore boomer-juggernaut did very well with Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop”, using the ambiguously inspirational lyrics “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow/ Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,/ It’ll be, better than before/ Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone” to good effect.
On the flipside, Al Gore went bust in 2000 with Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, which makes some sense since that song’s grumpy, middle aged tone is off-putting in the extreme. Who’d vote for someone who sings (metaphorically speaking):
“A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now
Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard
Mr. Beerbelly Beerbelly
Get these mutts away from me
You know I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore”
Neither did the voters, apparently.
Ross Perot failed when he ironically appropriated Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, which just goes to prove that a good song is a candidate’s key to victory. Here are some suggestions with notes and clarifications.
Songs with his name (or fuzzy approximations thereof):
“Kyrie” (Mr. Mister)
Pros: With simple elision, the chorus becomes both relevant and rousing:
“Kerry-yea! Elect him, down the road that I must travel
Kerry-yea! Elect him, through the darkness of the night
Kerry-yea! Elect him, where I’m going will you follow
Kerry-yea! Elect him, on a highway in the light”
Cons: No crossover appeal; too I Love the 80s.
“Carry on my Wayward Son” (Kansas)
Pros: Again, with a little elision, this song speaks almost directly to voters:
“Kerry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more”
Cons: Kerry would definitely carry Kansas, but there are, like, 49 other states besides Kansas. Also, the lyrics are a bit ambiguous, especially this part:
“Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, well
It surely means that I don’t know”
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (traditional)
Pros: Talk about tapping Bush’s religious vote! And the chorus: “Swing low, sweet chariot,/ Comin’ for to Kerry me home!” works well.
Cons: It’s all about Jordan, not America.
“Carry That Weight” (The Beatles)
Pros: Chorus implies strength and determination and a second term in office: “Boy, you gotta carry that weight/
Carry that weight a long time.” Powerful elision factor.
Cons: Michael Jackson owns The Beatles catalog: every time this song is sung, and angel gets its wings fondled.
“Johnny B Goode” (Chuck Berry)
Pros: An American classic with a perfect chorus: “Go go!/ Go, Johnny, go!”
Cons: Chuck Berry has an unsavory past. (Then again, so does Fleetwood Mac, albeit with fewer videos of women in the bathroom.)
Best Bet: “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” (traditional)
Pros: Everyone sort of knows the words. Rousing lyrics:
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.”
Cons: Gay rights being a major wedge issue in this election, that last part is tricky. But the third verse’s “Get ready for the Jubilee,/ Hurrah! Hurrah!/ We’ll give the hero three times three,/ Hurrah! Hurrah!” is sort of awesome.
Songs without his name but with strong messages:
“Breaking Us In Two” (Joe Jackson)
Pros: Lyrics read like an open letter to President Bush about what he’s doing to the country:
“Don’t you feel like trying something new?
Don’t you feel like breaking out or breaking us in two?
You don’t do the things that I do
You want to do the things I can’t do
Always something breaking us in two”
Cons: Too downbeat.
“Time to Change” (The Brady Bunch)
Pros: Light, on-message lyrics: “When it’s time to change (when it’s time to change),/ Don’t fight the tide, go along for the ride,/ Don’t ya see?/ When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange,/ Who you are and what you’re gonna be.”
Cons: Too Gen-X ironic. The again, everyone‘s comparing candidates to brat packers, so this might work.*
“When I’m 64” (The Beatles)
Pros: Can be made to imply that the Bush budget won’t be paid off until we’re all 64. Also, allows for jokes about Dick Cheney turning 64 in office next year.
Cons: Lyrics don’t really imply anything about the Bush budget.
Best Bet: “The Weight” (The Band)
Pros: Implies that Kerry will metaphorically carry (“Kerry,” get it?) the weight of his office.
Cons: Lyrics make no sense. Who the hell is “Fanny”?
Sidebar: FCC Equal Time regulations stipulate that we must suggest songs for Kerry’s opponent, President George W. Bush. We offer these purely out of obligation, not by way of endorsement:
“Liar” (Rollins Band)
Pros: Chorus fuckin’ rocks:
“cause I’m a liar, yeah, I’m a liar
I’ll tear (rip) your mind up, I’ll burn your soul
I’ll turn you into me, I’ll turn you into me
’cause I’m a liar, a liar, a liar, a liar…”
Cons: A tad subtle.
“I’ve got the Power” (Snap)
Pros: Chorus can be read in multiple ways, pro-Bush and -con: “It’s gettin’ it’s gettin’ it’s gettin’ kinda hectic!”
Cons: A bit, how shall I put this, “urban.”
“One” (Harry Nilsson)
Pros: Speaks directly to the sadness of being a One-Term President (like dear old dad):
“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one”
Cons: It’s too good a song to use in this way.
Best Bet: “I’m Destructive” (Dr. Octagon)
Pros: Colorful lyrics with oddly relevant symbolism:
“Stole your checks, and flush money down the toilet bowl
Look at the frog, he’s gone too down the commode
War paint on the carpet, your fur was my target”
Cons: Chorus, while apt, may be off-putting: “I’m destructive/ I’m destructive/ I’m destructive/ I’m destructive!”
* Damnit. I just watched last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart and they made the same joke re: John Edwards. I wish I could stay up past 11 o’clock to watch that show so I would’t echo their jokes.—M.H., 2.4.04, 6:23PM