Independence Day 2022
I hope I’m not the only person exhausted by the incessant need to find things we can’t agree on. That, my friends, is a choice.
So rather than struggle to demonstrate commonality through song, allow me to indulge in something I hope we can easily agree on: food. I recognize food insecurity is real. I also believe meals serve many purposes. So let’s celebrate our country’s culinary bounty and agree that any country fortunate enough to sing about food is a pretty good place.
The link to the expanded playlist appears at the end of the post and, if you can’t wait, right here.
Gimme a Pig Foot and a Bottle of Beer—Bessie Smith (1933)
What better way to start than with the Empress of the Blues calling for some authentic soul food? As a kid, my grandfather would make “man lunch” a couple of times a year. Pig’s feet (and other nearby parts) figured prominently. Maybe all poorer people share soul.
Beans and Cornbread--Louis Jordan and His Tympani 5 (1949)
The clown prince of jump blues got more mileage out of food and eating as subject matter than anyone else I can think of. One suspects he was a man of large appetites. His good-natured story-songs inspired a Broadway show and New Wave‘s Joe Jackson to get us all dancing the Lindy again.
Watermelon Man–Herbie Hancock (1962)
There was a time in living memory–well, my living memory, at least–when the pop charts contained a much wider range of music than they now do. That included jazz. This piece, from Herbie Hancock’s first album as a leader, was a hit for Mongo Santamaria a couple of years later. If you’re interested, there’s a great video where Herbie explains how this song came together to, of all people, Elvis Costello, after which he plays it in two styles.
Coconut—Harry Nilsson (1971)
I’m a latecomer to the Nilsson party and, if I’m honest, I still find myself standing at the entryway debating whether I want to commit. None of that really matters because every party needs cocktail ingredients and in this summertime classic the man who rhymed his surname delivers.
Jambalaya—Professor Longhair (c. 1978)
Sometimes a classic jumps genres. I know the die-hard country fans will disagree with me about this (and I will profess my deep love for Hank Williams) but when ‘Fess took this tune down to New Orleans, he made it his own. I can’t hear it any other way and just looking all this up prompted me to make a pot of that Acadian stew for dinner last night. (And now my kitchen smells like Louisiana.)
RC Cola and a Moon Pie-–NRBQ (c. 1980)
I often forget that this band, whose fan base has always seemed to really heavily on frat boys and preppies living in the Northeast, emerged from Florida. So of course they celebrated regional junk food. I dare you not to sing along with the chorus.
BONUS VIDEO AND PLAYLIST
I could go on all day so check out the playlist for extras including some original versions, cocktail songs, alternate versions, the song I nicked the post title from and, maybe, even some classic rock and antipodean pop. (I’m still debating what level of chauvinism I want to embrace this year.)
Enjoy the holiday. Despite being in a bit of a mess, it really is a great country and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. So, let’s not screw it up.
Chicken and Honey—The LeRoi Brothers (1982)
My roots music fascination is long-lived, so I first heard the group that lured away Fabulous Thunderbirds drummer Mike Buck soon after it was released. It’s got guitars. It’s got twang. It’s got guitars and twang. Who needs anything else?