Monarchs, political authority figures, and presidents have been inspiring pissed-off punk rock anthems or passionate, pleased glorification–whether subtle or direct–since human beings could pick up an instrument and pluck or pound out a feeling. And given our whole “Freedom of Speech”deal, Americans express their sentiments doubly so. In honor of President's Day, we've come with the Top Ten Songs About Presidents, although probably not of the top ten presidents:
10) The Legendary K.O., “George Bush Don't Like Black People”
In response to George Bush's painfully slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the apparent “coincidence” that those in most need were underprivileged minorities, Kanye West crafted one of his first ever controversial Kanye-isms, “George Bush doesn't care about black people.” Hip-hop artist, The Legendary K.O., took this phrase, used West's “Gold Digger” as a sample, and wrote a tune with provocative lyrics like,”People lifes on the lines/you declining to help/since you taking so much time/we surviving ourselves/just me and my pets and my kids and my spouse/trapped in my own house/looking for a way out.”
9) The Honey Drippers, “Impeach The President”
Soul-funk band The Honey Drippers, don't really say which president they would like to impeach, but given that their much-sampled song came out in 1973, it's pretty obvious that they are talking about the naughty Richard Nixon. This might be one of the ultimate '70s funk dance tracks, but lyrics like “Behind the walls of the White House/there's a lot of things we don't know about/Behind the walls of the White House/there's a lot of things we should know about” keep it fresh, no matter what the political climate is.
8) Nas, “Black President”
Starting off with a speech by President Obama, Nas' song “Black President” is a celebratory, “Yes We Can” jam featuring samples by 2pac and John Legend. In the song, Nas discusses his profound hopes and, inevitably, his doubts about a what having a black president means. Overall, his view is optimistic, summed up in the lyrics, “Yea but on a positive side, I think Obama provides hope/And challenges minds or all races and colors/To erase hate, and try to love one another, so many political snakes/We in need of a break, I'm thinking I can trust this brother.” Did Obama live up to your expectations, Nas?
7) James Brown-“Funky President”
Written for the snoozefest that was President Gerald Ford, James Brown was apparently encouraging Ford to funk it up a little, while also venting his societal and socioeconomic frustrations, saying “Hey country, didn't say what you meant/just changed the brand new funky president/stock market going up, jobs going down/there ain't no funky job to be found.”
6) The Ramones, “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg”
One of President Reagan's quirky nicknames, “Bonzo” commemorated the 40th anniversary of World War II by canceling an excursion to a concentration camp in order to view a Nazi SS cemetery. This political faux-pas rocked the masses and was subsequently the subject of many rock songs including The Ramones' “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” which prompted the lyric “You're a politician/don't become one of Hitler's children.”
5) Neil Young, “Let's Impeach The President”
In 2006, our country was shaken by political turmoil thanks to the decisions of President George Bush. While many musicians were writing subtle elegies to the days before the Bush-created chaos, Neil Young was probably the most blunt with his alt-country tune, “Let's Impeach The President.” The song's lyrics which all directly expressed outright disgust, like these: “Let's impeach the president for hijacking/Our religion and using it to get elected/Dividing our country into colors/And still leaving black people neglected.”
4) Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers, “White House Blues”
Grimly plucking a ragtime-blues dirge to President William McKinley (the victim of a gunshot wound and botched surgeries that eventually led to his death), this 1920s tune talks about the negatives of being put in chargewith “Roosevelt in the White House, drinkin' out of a silver cup / McKinley in the graveyard, he never wakes up.”
3) Ashford & Simpson, “Solid (As Barack)”
With a cunning twist on words, Ashford and Simpson sing out that we are “Solid, solid as Barack,” playing on their 1984 hit, “Solid.” The trite song is less of a testimony of potential greatness and more of a musical shambles that never quite convinces the listener that life under Barack's guidance will be that great accompanied by a choked, cheesy Ashford and Simpson soundtrack. We guess that's what happens when you hear your one-hit wonder used by SNL and decide to remake a remake.
2) The Minutemen, “If Reagan Played Disco”
For every scheming politician, there is a cacophonous punk rock song to lambast him. Such is the case with The Minutemen's one-minute-ish tune to Reagan that consists of only these lyrics, “”If Reagan played disco, he'd shoot it to shit/ You can't disco in jackboots/Born, born on a white horse/he'd sing lame lyrics/and try to reach the working man.” We might attest that a member of the Village People may have easily disco'd in jackboots.
And the number one song about a president is…
1) The Byrds, “He Was A Friend Of Mine”
Lamenting the death of President John F. Kennedy, The Byrds' “He Was A Friend OF Mine” is arguably one of the most famous songs about an American president, altered from a traditional folk tune of the same name that has been covered by other music notables like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Cat Power. The song's changed lyrics express the sentiment of most American citizen at the time of Kennedy's tragic assassination, “He was a friend of mine/…His killing had no purpose/no reason or rhyme” and still stay poignant all these years later.