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Saturday, November 22

"American Tune" by Paul Simon

Did anyone happen to catch Paul Simon on the Colbert Report last week?

He may have lost a little hair....... but nothing else -- SIMON STILL ROCKS!

You can watch the interview with Simon that preceded the song here

Here's a video of Paul Simon singing American Tune from 1975

Here are the lyrics from Songmeanings followed by a reader's comment (interpretation) of the song's meaning

Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm alright, I'm alright
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far a-way from home, so far away from home

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it's alright, it's alright
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what has gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the a-ge's most uncertain hours
and sing an American tune
Oh, and it's alright, it's alright, it's alright
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest

A Comment from the songmeaning discussion:

Yes, the music of "An American Tune" is in a sense a "flagrant rip-off," since it's at least 400 years old, which is when it turned up in a love song by the German Baroque composer Hans Hassler. And =he= probably stole it from an old Bavarian folk song.

It was next stolen by no less a personage than Johann Sebastian Bach as a motif for his "St Matthew Passion," and soon became a utiltity tune for singing many different hymns in the Protestant church.

So it was a favorite of the Pilgrims when they came to America, and eventually was used by the American labor movement for some of their marching songs.

And that was why singer-songwriter Tom Glazer chose it for "The Whole World Around," a song he wrote for the folk group The Weavers (which included Pete Seeger), later popularized as "Because All Men Are Brothers" by Peter Paul & Mary.

As the saying goes, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal outright."

So we have to assume that Simon had his tongue in his cheek when he call the song "An American Tune," since like most Americans, the song is an immigrant.

Paul Simon began thinking about writing the song in the early 1970s during the preparations for the American Bicentennial in 1976. He was planning something upbeat, with a reference to the American Moon Landing in 1969

But by 1972, Watergate happened, the economy was in a tailspin, and the antiwar movement and civil rights movements had become increasingly violent. And he and Art Garfunkel stopped performing. There was a lot of talk about the "decline of the American Empire," and some people were wondering if we would even make it to the Bicentennial in one piece.

There's a story that Simon actually had the dream, which is spelled out clearly in the song, of hovering high above New York Harbor, watching the Statue of Liberty sail away over the horizon. And when he woke up, the song wrote itself.

The point of the song, I think, is the same as that of Arlo Guthrie's "Patriot's Dream." We can't give up on the struggle for freedom, even when times are hard and things look hopeless.

Hmm. Might be time for another cover of this one.

1 comment:

jfq722 said...

Yeah, another little song was released right before this called American Pie....I'll bet he started work on Tune as soon as he got wind of it. Wonder if he was ripping the title off or trying to imitate the running time - since 3:45 is longer than most records at the time. He comes up short again, as usual in every respect.