Support for Democratic candidate Barack Obama has produced a wave of new music. Larry Shannon Hargrove is a soul singer with a political bent. He scored a cult hit with his self-released track 'Leave Bill Clinton Alone," a supportive response to Kenneth Starr's investigation. The lyrics of the Johnnie Taylor-style buttery soul number were to the point the chorus went: 'Leave Bill Clinton alone/ 'Cause everybody's done something wrong/ You just don't like him 'cause he wears dark glasses and plays the saxophone." Another choice line: 'All this investigating/ Ain't nothing but playa-hating."
Hargrove, a limo driver in Austin, has not been moved to contribute to the political arena again until this year. He was awakened, he told a blogger at the Austin American-Statesman, in the middle of the night with the inspiration for his newest cut, 'Barack Obama Train."
'Barack Obama Train" is an unconditional show of support for the Democratic nominee by Hargrove, who told the Statesman that he had always wondered if he would see a strong African-American presidential candidate in his lifetime. (Lyrics: 'He speaks with authority in his voice and he walks with pride and grace/ With his wife Michelle by his side/ Every step of the way/ I'm fired up, I'm on the Obama train/ It's the train of hope, and the train of change.")
It's also hardly the only one out there. So many Obama supporters have chosen to cast their vote early, in song, that there are multiple Web sites listing and promoting dozens of indie-produced tunes. It's gone way beyond 'Obama Girl," an early primary YouTube sensation. The Texas-based www.obamatrain.net " no apparent relation to Hargrove's song " collected five original tracks about the Senator on a CD for sale. At www.obamamusic.com, an unnamed artist states that he will be donating 99 percent of proceeds from iTunes sales of his song 'The World Votes For Barack Obama" to the campaign. In July, the rapper Ludacris released his own pro-Obama single, 'Politics." ('Paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified/ McCain don't belong in any chair unless he's paralyzed.") The site www.theworldwantsobama.com features a mariachi song, 'Viva Obama," produced by a group called Amigos de Obama (www.amigosdeobama.com). And during the WWOZ live broadcast from a Denver concert last month during the Democratic National Convention, the jazz vocal group Two Skirts and a Shirt performed its own original song " a Bo Diddley template that substituted 'Barack" for Bo in the chorus.
Trolling the Internet, it looks as if the Democrats have it all over the Republicans when it comes to grassroots musical tributes. Google searches for 'Barack Obama song" turned up entire sites, like the ones mentioned above, dedicated to the topic. Typing 'John McCain song" into the search window, however, mostly yielded information about the artists who have requested that the McCain/Palin campaign not use their songs. We did learn, as was noted in Gambit Weekly's blog (www.blogofneworleans.com) this week, that the country rapper John Rich of Big & Rich (best known for the duo's hit 'Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy") is doing well with his Southern rocker 'Raising McCain." The song's video caught the eye of organizers of the Republican National Convention. Also, via the comedy news Web site www.236.com, we saw several videos by a vocal trio called the McCain Girls, performing their original songs 'Here Comes McCain Again," 'It's Raining McCain" and 'McCainiac," although it looks like they are joking.
Of course, with the artistic-license card to play, there's always more that can be done to memorialize the 2008 presidential candidates for the ages. WWOZ DJ David Kunian saw Two Skirts and a Shirt perform its paean to the Democratic nominee live, while he co-hosted the station's Denver broadcast. In his estimation, it fell short of its potential.
'It was good for a middle-of-the-road jazzy pop/poppy jazz song," he says. 'But if you're going to do a Bo Diddley beat for Barack Obama, you've got either to take his achievements and put them out there, or mythologize him in the Bo Diddley style by saying something like, "He took out Invesco Field/ Just by raising his hand/ Raise the dead on the Senate/ And turn it into bedlam/ Now off to the White House/ Oh yes, he can.' Or something much better than that."
Readers can contact Alison Fensterstock at firstname.lastname@example.org