Jul 3, 2019
America’s Independence Day – July 4 – has been marked on Straight No Chaser by an annual recitation of the Declaration of Independence and a playing of Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful.” But as I prepared the same post this year, I realized that it was inappropriate.
It was inappropriate because this is a year when America is more divided, more bitterly turned against one another than ever before in my lifetime, often a shadow of its former self. I never dreamed that the America I wake in every day these days would be the America I left to my son and grandsons.
So this year, I prepared a Podcast which intends to bring across in music the great frustrations so many of us feel about America. I begin once again with “America the Beautiful” – a song sung by an African-American (Ray Charles), the son of a sharecropper, with lyrics written by a woman (Katherine Lee Bates) and music by a man (Samuel A. Ward). But the message must be refracted through the lens of the rest of the songs I have chosen, all questioning whether we are crowning our good with brotherhood in 2019, and if there is a chance we can regain some of our common sense and grace:
Noah Preminger – “A Change is Gonna Come” from Meditations on Freedom
Delfeayo Marsalis presents the Uptown Orchestra – the Title Track from Make America Great Again!
Wadada Leo Smith – “America, Pts. 1-3” from Ten Freedom Summers
Brad Mehldau – “The Prophet is a Fool” from Finding Gabriel
Ratetet – “Red State, Blue State” from Arctic
The Dirty Dozen Band featuring Chuck D – the Title Track from What’s Going On
Charlie Haden and the Liberation Orchestra – “This is Not America” from Not In Our Name
I end with an element of hope – but not a lot of faith:
Mavis Staples – “Build a Bridge” from If All I Was Was Black
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - “The Star Spangled Banner” from Flight of the Cosmic Hippo
(Note: This version of "The Star Spangled Banner" was arranged during the Battle of Wadi Al-Battle in Iraq in1991and was recorded a day after the battle started.)