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Aug 262008

I’m sitting here watching the Democratic National Convention, which is something else. Hundreds of political bigwigs, dressed in stern suits, acting like cheerleaders with the banners, cheering, waving at the camera, etc. I almost expected Howard Dean to streak. So as this damn election continues to never end, here are some political songs. Trying playing them over the campaign commercials; it make might make them more enjoyable.

Kodiak – Political World (Bob Dylan)
An underrated gem from Dylan’s underrated Oh Mercy, it touches on every sense of the word political. “We live in a political world / In cities of lonesome fear / Little by little you turn in the middle / But you’re never sure why you’re here.”

Sam Bush – Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man) (Randy Newman)
This song hits the theme of this election dead on: which candidate will have the most pity on the working man.

Cold War Kids – Electioneering (Radiohead)
I didn’t get a chance to throw this in last week’s Radiohead post, but doesn’t this sound familiar: “I will stop, I will stop at nothing / Say the right things when electioneering / I trust I can rely on your vote.”

Pickin’ On Series – American Idiot (Green Day)
I’m normally first in line to criticize series like this, which tend to just take the chords to a song and play them on a different instrument (banjo, accordion, distortion guitar, whatever). For this song at least, these anonymous session musicians sound like they tried for more than a paycheck, with a harmonies, solos, etc. And, unusual for the genre, it’s not instrumental – a big plus.

Deluxx Folk Implosion – I’m Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock)
Everything you forgot from eighth grade history is here in this song. I grew up on Schoolhouse Rock, and the fact that a full disc of covers exists (Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks) makes me very happy indeed.

Donavon Frankenreiter – Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
A furious anti-Vietnam diatribe, the sentiments apply today as much as they did in 1969 now that a fortunate son’s in charge. Frankenreiter does away with John Fogerty’s blazing guitar line for some sensitive-guitar chiming acoustic.

Ann Vriend – Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)
Kudos to Cover Lay Down for turning me onto this one, a song so often covered the same way, as easily jammable as “Watchtower”. With an ominous string section though, Vriend’s take is almost gothic folk, emphasizing the struggle you have to get through to keep on rocking.

Billy Bragg & Wilco – Stetson Kennedy (Woody Guthrie)
Greatest song ever about voting for a third-party candidate. Though I can’t think of any others.

Joan Baez – Christmas in Washington (Steve Earle)
Joan Baez, doing a political song? Shocking indeed. Calling out both Republicans and
Democrats is direct even for her though. This is a more recent offering than her flower child 60’s days, from her 2003 release Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.

Barenaked Ladies – Fight the Power (Public Enemy)
BNL seems about as likely to fight the power as a wet noodle, but that just adds to the novelty fun of this. I can’t imagine Chuck and Flav would approve though.

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