Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest and the Music That Made a Nation leans heavily on metaphors of harmony and dissonance with results that are often thought-provoking. The authors honor their subtitle by devoting sustained attention to musical statements of both patriotism and protest, and most importantly making it clear that these categories overlap. Their vision of United States history, while it values dissent, ultimately aims for a reassuring consensus as shouts of protest inevitably find their way into the great American songbook.
Posts by Patrick Burke
The “Requiem for Mike Brown” protest of 2014 engaged Powell Hall’s history in deep and provocative ways that went beyond the brief disruption of an evening of high culture. The protesters insisted on concern for Black lives in a building that, as the St. Louis Theater, had excluded African Americans. They questioned the troubled relationship between police and Black St. Louisans in a venue whose rebirth as a symphony hall hinged on the promise that police would protect its patrons from the city outside.
Although recommended to readers with an interest in Bacharach or in popular song of his era, Anyone Who Had a Heart is an unsatisfying book. Readers hoping that Burt Bacharach’s autobiography will reveal new depths in the man and his music may find that both come to seem shallower than ever.