The American elections are on Tuesday. Can you believe it? I’ll say it again just to assure you it’s true. The American elections are on TUESDAY. Yes, after 12 months of being told that there’s going to be a new President, come Wednesday morning there’ll actually be one. Blimey.
It’s been amazing watching the campaign of Barack Obama and John McCain. Over the course of a year they have managed to galvanize just about everyone from every demographic. Even if you don’t live in America, suddenly (and probably thanks in part to the lunacy that has been George Bush’s presidency) the result of this election actually means something – just look at the way the music industry has reacted.
Invigorated by such powerful, yet not very differing, messages like ‘Change’, ‘Change for America’ and ‘Time for a Change’, musicians have been queuing up to get involved. While the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Kanye West have joined in by doing what they do best – performing, others have actually put pen to paper and written about it. William.i.Am’s Obama love-in ‘Yes We Can’ and Hank Williams Jr’s recent pro-McCain/Sarah Palin song ‘McCain-Palin Tradition’ both spring to mind. (NB: You really should listen to the latter, I promise the lyrics will bring a smile even to the most apathetic listener.)
Even those who haven’t chosen to take part have found themselves unable to escape all this election pomp. Every week, journalists have asked their subjects – whether it be Jay-Z, U2’s Bono or Joe Perry of Aerosmith - who they’re backing in the US elections – and why.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this of course, music and politics, like John McCain and Joe the Plumber, have gone hand in hand ever since composers were commissioned to write political songs in the early days of the Soviet Union. In the 1930s Billie Holliday painted stark images of sociopolitical conflict in her harrowingly moving but musically sparse ‘Strange Fruit’, while with the 1970s and the Sex Pistols came songs that directly challenged the establishment. Even Green Day chose to experiment with the political on their 2004 album ‘American Idiot’. And there’s no guessing for who that was about.
But hang on a minute. Before we all get carried away by music and politics’ latest marriage, let us remember something that all those past examples show - it rarely lasts. Come Wednesday morning, the songs written in favour of the candidates will mean nothing; the campaign concerts that rallied voters across the United States will be a distant memory and Obama’s chic ‘brushin’ of dirt’ from his shoulder (a reference to a song by Jay-Z) during a rally in Pennsylvania will simply be a forgotten gem to be re-discovered on YouTube.
Come Wednesday morning, the President will have far more pressing concerns to think about than whether he’s got the support of P Diddy. But it was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?
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