Five Songs For Election Day

Videos by American Songwriter

Music and politics; sometimes their friends, sometimes they’re frenemies. While we’ve never had a full-time musician elected to the White House (we’ll have to wait for Kanye to run in 2016 for that to happen), we’ve seen John Hall and the late Sonny Bono enter the world of politics. President Obama said he ran for office because he couldn’t be Bruce Springsteen.

But now, the power is in your hands. Here’s a five tunes you can whistle to yourself while you’re getting your vote on.

“America”/”American Tune” – Paul Simon

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, or somewhere in the middle, everybody can come together over these twin odes to our Nation’s promise. One’s about a starry-eyed teen’s bus trip into adulthood, the other’s a weary immigrant’s tale of hope and perseverance. “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.” If only it was that easy.

“Stetson Kennedy” – Billy Bragg and Wilco

The Bard of Barking and the progressive Chicago rockers had plenty of great political material to choose from when they were invited to revive Woody Guthrie’s unused lyrics for the Mermaid Avenue project. This catchy, bluesy track from Vol. II, sung by Bragg, makes us all want to vote for this Stetson Kennedy fellow, a human rights activist who went undercover to help bust the Klu Klux Klan. While we’re at it, let’s have “Christ For President” (another winner from Vol. II).

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” –  The Who

Getting fooled seems like a necessary evil when it comes to politics — you support one platform, and you end up with another. It’s just business as usual. But even as the song, originally aimed at Richard Nixon, gets older and older, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” can still inspire hope that one day, somehow, our elected leaders will keep their promises, and give us some truth.

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” – Bob Dylan

“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call.” Dylan’s civil rights-era anthem still resounds today, so masterfully is it written. This song has always had the power to move the masses, and may be our country’s greatest songwriter’s crowning achievement. Whether we want them to or not, the times are constantly changing. Let’s change them for the better.

“People Have The Power” – Patti Smith

“People have the power to redeem the work of fools/From the meek the graces shower, it’s decreed the people rule.” Democracy is about everybody having a voice. Make sure you use yours.


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