15) Buchanan

Back in February of 2006, Jefferson Pitcher, J. Matthew Gerken, and I set about writing and recording the original demos for these Presidents songs as part of the February Album Writing Month challenge (www.fawm.org).  We wrote and did demo recordings of 42 songs (all but G.W. Bush) in Februrary–28 days and 42 songs.  Sheesh. 

In any case, as part of that, we wrote little texts to accompany each new song as we got them up on the FAWM website.  I like looking through them now as they seem part of a crazy, crazy time. 

Burr Settles, a fine songwriter in his own right and the FAWM-lord, was kind enough to get me an html backup of all the original texts we wrote, and it includes the comments other songwriters wrote on the demos as we got them up.  I’m including those as well.

15 Buchanan (God Will Strike You Down)

by jeff pitcher — 2006-02-12 @ 02:30pm (EST) — Alt/Indie

buchanan. the first thing i read about him was that he “disapproved of slavery morally, but felt that the slave states should remain that way,” which simply says to me that he must not have felt all that strongly about the matter. hence the line in the song “oh you poor slaves…” i felt like he was a bit patronizing and ultimately unsympathetic and useless. he really didn’t do all that much with his presidency. the southern states were threatening to secede, and as he didn’t want to really upset anyone, he really did nothing about it, and left it for lincoln to deal with. i thusly sing “abraham, what a mess we’re in,” as it just seemed to me like he was waiting for a more courageous person to deal with the situation.

right at the end of his presidency, there was an issue at fort sumpter in south carolina…the house was trying to decide what to do with federal forts on southern land if they did attempt to secede, and it turned into a big mess at the end of his presidency…a battle ensued, that some would argue led ultimately to the civil war, though it seems to me that the war was completely inescapable. 

my singing “god will strike you down,” is my imagining of what buchanan thought of the southerners, but also what may have come to him as well. the last line of note in the song, is the second half of the chorus where i sing “a war it will come to bury lonely me.” as it turns out, buchanan was the only president who never married and died alone, with no resolution about the slavery issue.

i’m not terribly happy with the lyrics in the verses, but suffice it to say, that one grows a bit tired of singing about presidents, especially when the material runs thin.


  1. Amy Curl | 2006-02-27 @ 07:34pm (EST)Gorgeous, painful song. The music is…I’m out of words. I love it and can’t stop listening.

    Congratulations on this totally fantastic Presidents project.

  2. Erin O’Brien | 2006-03-15 @ 07:32pm (EST)I like the haunting feel of this one and the military-esque drums really resonate. I was reading “you will not secede, you will not secede” but thinking “you will not secede, you will not succeed.” The outro surprised me but gave it a nice shot of extra flavor.
Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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