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.
34 Eisenhower (When Ike Walked the Land)
We have a cultural idea that life was somehow easier in the 1950s and while I’m sure it wasn’t as easy as we all think it was today, there was certainly a weird sense of hope present. Hope mingled with fear. We had just destroyed Hilter’s Reich and had recut Europe in our own image. But then there was the issue of the atomic bomb.
Nonetheless, in the 1950s we were afraid our kids were smoking pot, not doing heroin, cocaine, or oxycontin. Our fears were Elvis Presley. Morality slipping. While it’s certainly a tender and nostalgic view to cast eyes backwards to any past and think it somehow “more pure” than the present age, that’s what I’m doing here.
When Ike was President, things were simpler, even if they weren’t perfect. There’s a line in the song about moving to the midwest and being warned by the otherwise very kind neighbors not to live on 5th Street because “that’s where the Mexicans lived.” One Mexican family is what they meant, but somehow that tainted the entire street. Rednecks are everywhere, to be sure, even when they’re kindly cooking you an apple pie.
Eisenhower desegregated the military and enforced the desegretion of Southern colleges. I wonder what he would have thought of his Republican brethren pumping drugs into inner cities in an effort to resegregate. Maybe in a future song (Reagan)? I can have Ike and Ronny fistfighting in some Republican cowboy heaven.
- jeff pitcher | 2006-02-24 @ 10:23pm (EST)
my god the chorus is good. i think i will spend my life chasing your vocal meodies through a dense forest. this is one of my favorites that you’ve done so far. i just love how it is just a bit too slow. and the phrasing is great. the subject matter and lyrics kill me. damn good.
- Erin O’Brien | 2006-03-15 @ 07:26pm (EST)
I wasn’t alive in the 50’s, but you captured the nostalgia that’s peddled about that time brilliantly. I really liked the melody and simple piano accompaniment. Your lyrics are terrific.