Popular music, for however much it’s worth, can say a lot about the state of the culture. Politicians, for however little they’re worth, can say a lot about the state of the nation.
I’ve always been a fan of speeches, and an even bigger fan of music. Will they blend? Let’s find out.
I just so happened to have on me a collection of great speeches on my hard drive — some from a self-descriptive collection, others from one handy Web site or another. I also had Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Songs of All Time.
The biggest problem I have with Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Songs of All Time — ignoring that Supertramp got outright gyped — is that the list turned out to be The Top 411 Songs Released Before 1980 Plus A Smattering of New Wave, Rap and Grunge. Flawed, but workable.
In short, my goal: To create playlists that mix speeches and music to get, for lack of a better idiom, a sense of what the decade was like in America.
What song would have been interrupted on the radio to carry the news that JFK was shot? Once Nixon finished his resignation address? When the Challenger exploded?
That in mind, I tried to keep the music more-or-less chronological and contemporary with the speeches — no Blondie during the Johnson administration — and, when needed, I edited the speeches down so that the whole playlist could fit on one audio CD. Each mix covers either two or three presidential terms; come back over the week or so to see what I came up with.
Due to copyright law and the like, I’m afraid you’re on your own for gathering the songs. There’s always iTunes, if you don’t mind dealing into the hands of an unscrupulous corporate hegemony, and if you’re unscrupulous yourself, there are plenty of other methods at your disposal.
I neither condone nor encourage music piracy. Arrr at your own risk.