Electing Showtunes for Election Day
The 2016 Presidential Election is just a few days away and we will soon learn whether Hillary Rodham Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. With that, I thought it might be fun to look at the songs that celebrate elections, leaders and the office of POTUS. Here is an Election Day playlist to help you get through the results as they trickle in:
Our Favorite Son
The Will Rogers Follies
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
In the musical vaudeville The Will Rogers Follies, the title character's life is played out with each important episode treated like a follies number. Rogers, who was a popular radio personality, humorist and stage performer. His down home wit appealed to the masses. At one point, Rogers decided to run for president in an effort to spoof the process. "Our Favorite Son" is the musical number in The Will Rogers Follies that touched on his campaign.
Take Care of This House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Alan J. Lerner
Though it was a flop of monumental proportions, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had a lovely score with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The musical was an episodic tribute to the White House and the many leaders who populated the presidential home over the years. The song is sung by John Adams, the first president to reside there, his wife Abigail, and their servants. The song is an altruistic wish for good things to happen for both its denizens and the country they will lead.
Step to the Rear
How Now, Dow Jones?
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
Technically, this song from How Now, Dow Jones? is not even about an election, but it is such and inspired call for a leader that I cannot help but include the song for this Election Day song parade. Ironically, the spirited number about the perfect leader is sung by and to a suicidal huckster who is being paid by a Wall Street shark to get a bunch of unsuspecting widows to invest in the stock market. Still, the song brims with the idealistic sentiment many of us feel when thinking about who our country’s next leader will be.
Love is Sweeping the Country
Of Thee I Sing
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Of Thee I Sing is the satiric telling of a fictional presidential election. Wintergreen is running for president on a vague platform of “Love”. What that exactly means is anybody’s guess, but it does comically poke fun at candidates with empty platforms, sound bites, and grandiose ideas without an actual plan to achieve their promises.
It Gets Lonely in the White House
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
It has been reported by former U.S. presidents that being Commander in Chief can feel isolating and lonely. In the musical Mister President, President Henderson bemoans such a plight, even wishing that the guy who ran against was serving in his place. It’s a big job, and everyone is looking to you to make the right choice. This song captures what a daunting position that must be.
Everybody's Got the Right
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Okay...okay, maybe it's not the most patriotic of choices for this list, but presidential elections are often about the lack of voice for the American people. In Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins, the disenfranchised take center stage as they are offered an opportunity to "come here and kill a president." Spoiler alert: they do.
The Country's in the Very Best of Hands
Music in Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
When Abner Yokum and his pal Marryin’ Sam return from Washington, D.C. after finding out their own of Dogatch is destined to become an atomic testing site, they report that “The Country Is in the Best of Hands”. Having just met with politicians, they are impressed with their handling of things on behalf of the U.S. of A. Obviously , this musical is based on a comic strip and satire is being invoked.
The Reynolds Pamphlet
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Can any list of songs celebrating American politics not include at least one song about a scandal? Can any list of Broadway songs celebrating American politics not include at least one song from Hamilton? “The Reynolds Pamphlet” puts an end to Alexander Hamilton’s aspirations to be president when it’s revealed that he had an affair. The other characters, particularly his political adversaries, mock him and sing how he’ll “never be president”. How I wish we could all dance and sing this ditty to Donald Trump!
Is Anybody There?
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
I am choosing this one to end with, because of all songs about politics, I think this one sums up what most of us feel. John Adams stood before the Continental Congress to plead the case for American Independence, feeling that most of his contemporaries couldn’t see his vision. Alone in the chamber, he asks the question aloud “Is Anybody There?”, hoping that someone will get onboard for his inspired, progressive plan. How many times have we looked to our leaders and hoped one of them would have the courage to take a giant step for the rights of our people? This is the song that will play in my heart when I enter the voting booth this coming Tuesday.