Monday, July 04, 2011

Bachman's Third Try at a Theme Song

Far right Presidential candidate Michele Bachman has had almost as big a problem with theme songs for her campaign as with American history.

First,  Tom Petty send a cease-and-desist letter to stop Bachman from using American Girl. Next, Katrina Leskanich announced that she wasn’t cool with Bachmann’s “misuse” of Katrina and the Waves’ hit song “Walking on Sunshine.”

Today, it is reported that Bachman, apparently rejecting an offer from Ted Nugent,  is using Elvis Presley's recording of "The Promised Land."

It is interesting that Bachman picked an Elvis cover of a song written by the still-living African-American Chuck Berry, which in turn is a reworking of  Wabash Cannonball, most famously recorded by Roy Acuff, and dating back to at least 1882.

Even more interesting is that Berry's original lyrics referred to the 1961 Freedom Ride. Presley completely omitted the second verse where Berry says he bypassed Rock Hill, the place where future Congressman John Lewis and other riders were attacked by a white mob.
We stopped in Charlotte,
We bypassed Rock Hill
We never was a minute late
We was 90 miles out of Atlanta by sundown
Rollin' out of Georgia state
The next verse goes like this and seems to also refer to another key Freedom Ride site.
We had a little trouble,
Turned into a struggle
Half way across Alabam
Our 'hound broke down
Left us stranded
In downtown Birmingham
I'm not saying that Chuck Berry was transformed into Woody Guthrie, although Woody also borrowed the Wabash Cannonball tune for the Grand Coulee Dam. But the background of the segregation and Freedom Rides ought to inform the performance of this great Chuck Berry tune.  Sadly, many  versions of the "Promised Land" mangle the words, leaving out key lines.

Here's nice version of Chuck Berry doing the 'Promised Land", probably in the UK.

I kind of hope that Chuck Berry as composer of the Promised Land can and will bar the crazy lady from the North Country from using his song.

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