SONGS OF AMERICA

October 13, 2019


Songs of America is a marvelous new book by Joh Meacham and Tim McGraw.   The subtitle is “Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation”.  You may think this “dynamic duo” is mis-matched but the book’s eight chapters speak to an American era — such as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the civil rights movement — and tie in songs that represent that period, from “The Liberty Song,” (a little known pre-Revolutionary War song written in 1768 by founding father John Dickinson) to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,”  “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” The tunes, often in support or protest of a movement, give shape to the way that music tells the history of America as much as wars, economic instability and social agitation do.  The chapters are as follows:

CHAPTER 1: THE SENSATIONS OF FREEDOM

CHAPTER 2: LAND WHERE OUR FATHERS DIED

CHAPTER 3: MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY

CHAPTER 4: MARCH, MARCH, MANY AS ONE

CHAPTER 5: AS THE STORM CLOUDS GATHER

CHAPTER 6: WE SHALL OVERCOME

CHAPTER 7: ARCHIE BUNKER V. THE AGE OF AQUARIUS

CHAPTER 8: BORN IN THE U.S.A.

Meacham provides the history of each era while McGraw furnishes information on specific songs very popular in each time period.  This provides an intersection between history and music which, in my opinion, really works.

These inserts by McGraw are “breakout” boxes that make us remember the time a historical situation in which they were popular.  McGraw wrote about the songs that inspired and moved him. Many of the tunes he knew; others, especially from the 1700s and 1800s, he researched as he picked which ones to dive into. “When I first started writing the sidebars, the first text I got back from Jon was ‘Look, Tim, don’t try to be a history writer,’” he laughs.  

The remarkable speed with which the project came together didn’t allow time for an audio accompaniment. However, the pair are touting it through a six-city theater tour that kicked off Monday in New York and runs through June 24 in Raleigh, N.C.  They discuss the chapters and then McGraw performs songs discussed in the text. They have also added in some of McGraw’s tunes that address themes in the book. “‘If You’re Reading This’ is the showstopper,” Meacham says.

Though McGraw performs some of his songs, they were intentionally left out of the book. “I wanted it to be more voyeuristic in my approach to looking at this,” he says. “I wanted it to come from being a musician point of view, but not from a successful artist point of view. I wanted to [show how] this music impacted me as a musician and as a history buff.”

I’m sure you know these guys, but if not, given below are their pictures. 

The book is two hundred and thirty-four (234) pages in length and provides an “easy read” for those of you needing to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  If you have ever read a book by Jon Meacham you know he uses numerous references and publishes those references.  This book is no different with thirty -four (34) pages of notes and reference material given.   

The book costs $30.00 U.S. and in my opinion is a must read.  Really good book if you enjoy history and/or music.


I think EVERY city, town, municipality, etc. has an obligation to provide its citizens with “stuff to do”.  A reason to go downtown whether that reason be dining, a waterfront event or a specific festival.  Roaming the streets is really not that interesting unless that “roaming” is associated with an event.  The movers and shakers in Chattanooga, Tennessee recognize that fact and constantly look for events to attract people to the downtown area.  Well, we have a new one.

Take a look at this news release:

“What separates the inaugural Chattanooga MotorCar Festival from other car shows that roll through Chattanooga?

Chattanooga MotorCar Festival is the only car event to offer a Concourse, a Rallye and time trials on a closed circuit — not to mention multiple family activities.

It all takes place in downtown Chattanooga’s West Village and on the riverfront when the first MotorCar Festival, presented by DeFoor Brothers and sponsored by Volkswagen of America, takes place Friday-Saturday, Oct. 11-12.

Hundreds of exotic, significant, one-of-a-kind cars — some from as far back as the early 1900s — are rolling into town Thursday to compete in the time trials and/or be shown in the Concours on the grounds of the Westin Hotel.

Of the 120 cars accepted for the Concourse, expect to see a 1928 Isotta Fraschini 8A Super Sprinto, a 1966 McLaren M1B Can-Am race car, a rare 1952 Porsche 356A 1500 Super America Roadster and Wayne Carini’s Moal Speedway Special.”

IF YOU GO:

* What: Chattanooga MotorCar Festival

* Where: West Village and Riverfront Parkway

* When: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

* Admission: $35 one-day pass, $55 two-day pass, $145 two-day VIP Package, ages 15 and younger are free but their admission to events will match the ticket level of their accompanying adult

* For more information: https://www.chattanoogamotorcar.com

My wife and I did go but preceded that event with a wonderful dinner at La Paloma.  If you love Italian and Spanish food, if you love tapas, if you love good wine—go to La Paloma.

Given below are several digital photographs from that “street scene”.

For the event, the streets around West Village and Riverfront Parkway were blocked off to through traffic.  Only foot-traffic was tolerated. This, of course, allowed participants to walk freely to the stage, the restaurants and other venues within the area. 

You can get an idea of the various entities within the West Village from the street signs above.  This is representative of a very few places you can go from the center point of the area.

The band was truly great and local. Priacilla and Little Ricky.  I have no idea as to how they got their name but they were really good and played music we all knew and could sing to if nuged just a little.  When we sat down at La Paloma they were playing Margueritaville. No rap, no heavy metal, etc. just good music.

You really need to visit Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The event above is only a small portion of what’s available.  Great place to live and visit.

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