I said last week, and again in my post What’s In A Word? on Saturday, that I was intending to return to theming this series, and after so many posts dedicated to the Sixties and Seventies it did feel a little strange, if I’m honest. I have often taken a theme from news stories – the pandemic has thrown up a lot of these – and this week’s came to me while I was watching the biggest event of the past week: the inauguration of President Biden. I am by no means a political commentator, but it is sometimes difficult to separate politics and the impact they have on our lives from my posts, and this was one such occasion when it felt necessary that I recognised this. As I watched the tv coverage, which for me began with the former incumbent shuffling away in disgrace to his remarkably poorly attended ‘grand farewell’ event, and then on to the inauguration ceremony, I was left with a feeling which I am sure was – and is – being felt by many Americans: that the horrors of the previous administration were being replaced by a new approach, which was bringing them hope for the future. And that seemed like a good theme for this week’s tunes.
Whilst this was a particularly American event it was also undeniably of major interest for the rest of the world, as the USA is such a focal point for all of us. Having said that, I’ve noticed that I’m being a little parochial in my choices this week: of the five songs I’m giving you, three are from the UK, one from Jamaica, and just one is from the States! But as we share in your feelings of hope, why not?
This week’s first piece of optimism and gratitude for the positives of life is the American one:
As you can see from the video, that was the encore to a live concert performance, which had some clips from the original video for the song blended in. I’m sharing that because I think the song really fits well with what I was feeling last Wednesday, a feeling shared by much of America. After the many problems caused by Trump, it was indeed a great day to be alive and see him leave the White House to a President whose focus is unity instead of division, and I love the crowd singalong at the end. The song comes from Travis Tritt’s album Down The Road I Go, which was released in October 2000. It was written by Darrell Scott, who has a long list of very good musicians for whom he has written songs and/or played on their records. Though most of these were in the country/Americana field, he was at one point a member of Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy, and wrote the song Daddy Lessons, which was recorded by Beyoncé and The Chicks. Tritt’s album reached #51 in the Billboard chart, and also got to #8 on their country albums listings. This track was released as the second single from the album, reaching #33 on the main chart and #2 in the country chart. Like many US country acts he has never made even the slightest dent on the UK charts, though.
Today’s second song isn’t about America, or even remotely related to that country. It was actually inspired by the unofficial truce in the WW1 trenches on Christmas Day 1914, but in its references to being ‘in no man’s land,’ and of the need to come together, I think it offers a very good metaphor for the current state of US politics:
The Farm are a band from Liverpool, as you can see from the video, and this was a big hit single in 1990, when it reached #4 here and #7 on the US Alternative Airplay chart. It was also on their debut album, Spartacus, the following year – that was a #1 in the UK albums chart. The band are still together, but mostly as a live act: they haven’t released any new music since 1994, though a re-recorded version of this song was a #5 hit in 2004, when it was the official anthem of the England football team at that year’s European Championships. What particularly draws me to this video, apart from the fact that I’ve always liked the song, is the way that it shows different generations mixing and enjoying each other’s company: surely that is also a metaphor with which we can all identify, for the need to come together in a spirit of unity, and not just in the US!
My next selection is the one from Jamaica. It is only a static video but, as it has been seen over 197m times, I think I can safely say that this is a popular song:
I’m not a particularly religious or spiritual person, but the lyrics of the song speak to us all about the importance of coming together, sharing what we have in common, and making for a better future. To me the lines
“Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?”
are particularly relevant in relation to the ex-President, though Bob Marley holds out hope even for those who fit this description. Some, however, may be beyond redemption! This was a song on the album Exodus, released in 1977, when it reached #8 on the UK albums chart and #20 in the US. The album’s title derives from a track about the Bible story, but is also a reference to Marley having survived an assassination attempt in Jamaica the previous year, after which he moved to London. The song was later released as a single in 1984, to promote the forthcoming greatest hits album Legend, when it reached #5 in the UK charts. By then, though, it had been retitled One Love/People Get Ready for copyright reasons, reflecting the fact that it had largely borrowed its tune from the Curtis Mayfield song. Mayfield was also given co-writing credit – just to be on the safe side!
This week’s two remaining selections are both by former Beatles. I shared this one earlier in this series (episode 31 if you’re interested) but it is a perfect fit for the metaphor of coming out of a period of darkness into the light, with the promise of better times to come, and I couldn’t resist including it again:
As I previously said, this video was released to mark the 50th anniversary reissue of the Abbey Road album, on 26 September 2019. This is a George Harrison song, written by him while in his friend Eric Clapton’s garden. The original album was, of course, #1 in the UK and the US, and in just about every other country you care to think of. The 50th anniversary reissue was also a UK #1, and in the main US chart it reached #3, though it made #1 in the Rock chart. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that this video has over 47m views in sixteen months! If your day is in need of some cheering up, you really can’t do much better than this, and while you watch it try to look ahead to what will hopefully be better times for all of us.
Today’s final tune couldn’t be a better fit for my theme, as it even shares the same title:
The song was written by Paul McCartney in 2014 as part of a commission to provide music for a video game, entitled Destiny. I’ve never played the game, but I’m guessing that the setting for the video is from it. It is a powerful song, and probably one of the least well known of anything he has ever recorded. It was released as an EP bearing five different versions of the song, but as far as I can tell its chart success was limited to reaching the dizzy heights of #24 in Belgium and #49 in Poland. But just take a look at these lyrics:
“Some hope for the future
Some wait for the call
To say that the days ahead
Will be the best of all
We will build bridges
Up to the sky
Heavenly lights surrounding
You and I
Hope for the future
It’s coming soon enough
How much can we achieve?
Hope for the future
It will belong to us
If we believe”
There is something for us all to take away from that: we need to believe that we can be part of making a better future. What could be more appropriate right now, both for the US and for all of us? It is possibly naïve, but I hope that unity will gradually happen, and from it will come the strength that the US needs to rebuild itself from the carnage of the past four years. If they can, then maybe they can help us to rebuild our country from our self-inflicted wounds, if they have a spare moment (or plenty – we’re in a real mess).
See you again next week. Keep safe, keep well 😊