Let's get political. Former Texas governor Rick Perry announced his presidential candidacy on Wednesday to ... mixed reviews. We don't need to get into that.
However, the campaign song that he released with his announcement is inarguably the greatest thing that he has ever done. It is a hybrid of country music and rap, so aggressive, so violent, so exactly what you might expect from a man who once shot a coyote while out on a morning jog (Rick Perry carries a pistol while out on his morning jog!), that my stomach actually did nervous flips just listening to it.
Here is the first country verse:
I won't back up / I don't back down / I been raised up / To stand my ground / Take my job / But not my gun
Followed by this rap verse:
Give me my right to vote / My right to tote / The weapon of my choice, don't censor my voice
As you can see, we have a real modern classic on our hands. And whether or not you agree with Perry's politics, I think we can all agree that the idea of condensing one's political stances into a dozen or so sentences that rhyme is not the worst tactic. From a voter's perspective it's actually pretty convenient.
So, in honor of sharp-shootin' Rick, we attempted the daunting task of rounding up the best of campaign songwriting from the last 200 years. It took a really, really long time, so, you're welcome.
Harry Truman — 1948, "I'm Just Wild About Harry"
Harry Truman borrowed this song from the 1921 musical Shuffle Along, notable for its all-black cast and for being a frank (for the time) depiction of romantic love. In fact, the writers' decision to cast aside racial stereotypes and write a genuine love song to be performed by two black actors was considered revolutionary.
Truman, for his part, walked right into the joke "I'm just mild about Harry" (lol, good one guys) and probably a lot of teasing about the "heavenly blisses of his kisses." He was also a documented bigot and user of racial slurs, so I guess you don't need to feel sorry about this backfiring on him.
George W. Bush — 2000, "We the People"
The honorable Billy Ray Cyrus, short on cash in these years just before making the biggest mistake of his life, wrote "We the People" specifically as a presidential campaign song, but not for any specific presidential candidate. In fact, he offered the song to both George W. Bush and Al Gore. The latter passed presumably because he was unable to appreciate a truly beautiful pun: "The mint might print them but the buck stops here."
Franklin D. Roosevelt — 1932, "Happy Days Are Here Again"
FDR borrowed this campaign song from the 1930 film Chasing Rainbows. The song was the finale of the film and the sequence was apparently one of the great early spectacles of Technicolor, but was lost in a fire in 1967. So you can't listen to that version, but you can listen to Jessica Lange speak-singing it ominously in the background of a Marc Jacob's fashion show (and isn't that just better?).
Roosevelt's campaign managers went rogue and played the song at a rally unprompted, and it soon became not just the anthem of FDR, but also of the Democratic Party, the end of Prohibition, the country's climb out of the Great Depression, and everything else nice that happened to anyone for the next 40 years.
Bob Dole — 1996, "I'm a Dole Man"
Bob Dole was a literal fellow. The Republican candidate changed the lyrics of the classic Hayes and Porter song "Soul Man" (best known from The Blues Brothers) from "I'm a soul man" to "I'm a Dole man." Dole eventually stopped playing the song on the campaign trail when he was threatened with a law suit gunning for $100,000 in licensing per play.
Although, if I could take a swing at this, I might say that the fact that "I'm a Dole man" means literally nothing might also have had something to do with it.
John F. Kennedy — 1960, "High Hopes"
Frank Sinatra, everyone's favorite crooner, was a huge fan of everyone's favorite 1960 presidential candidate. So much so that he changed the lyrics of his 1959 hit "High Hopes" to explain why JFK was so great. He listed some really awesome reasons:
"He's got what all the rest lack"
"Jack is on the right track"
"Everyone wants to back — Jack."
"Oops, there goes the opposition — KERPLOP!"
Hey, blue eyes, don't quit your day job.
Andrew Jackson — 1824, "The Hunters of Kentucky"
"The Hunters of Kentucky" was written in 1821 to commemorate Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans, and later became the cornerstone of Jackson's campaign in 1824 and his John Quincy Adams grudge match in 1828. And for good reason. First of all, it doubled as a personal anthem and as a massive throwing-of-shade onto Jackson's main 1824 competitor Henry Clay, who was the actual candidate from Kentucky (Jackson was from Tennessee). It also contains lyrical gold such as "And if a daring foe annoys / whate'er his strength and forces / we'll show him that Kentucky boys / are alligator horses."
Most of the song, it turns out, is about Andrew Jackson leading a battle charge into a swamp. Jackson also, if we are to believe the lyrics, had the ability to metamorphose his entire army until "every man was half a horse and half an alligator."
"The Hunters of Kentucky" was covered in the 2010 musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. You can listen to the rest of the cast recording to learn about some other instances of Jackson leading people into violence.
John Quincy Adams — 1828, "Little Know ‘Ye Who's Coming"
An interesting tactic, John Quincy Adams basically threatened the people of the United States with a bloody, firy death-pocalypse if they didnt vote for him:
Fire's a-comin,' swords a-comin' / pistols, guns and knives are comin' / ...if John Quincy not be comin.'
Plot twist: he lost to Andrew Jackson, and they got it!
Anyway, we kid, but we all know that this the greatest political campaign song of all time: