Today is Presidents Day, an occasion Americans celebrate by going to work and then not having any mail waiting for them when they get home.
The least you deserve on this pretty-much-imaginary holiday is a hastily assembled and humorously annotated playlist of songs that mention U.S. presidents. As a bonus, many of the songs are good. Most of them even. And, as a special gift to you, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is omitted, even though it names five presidents.
Prince -- “Ronnie, Talk to Russia”
Gil Scott-Heron had a great Reagan song or two. Killer Mike sampled RR's dissembling about Iran-Contra a couple years back. Nice work, fellas. But with this song, Prince actually ended the Cold War. That’s just a historical fact. Prince sang “Ronnie, Talk to Russia.” A few years later, Ronnie talked to Russia. Cause, effect. Prince and John Paul II, it was all them. You could look it up.
Great Plains -- “Rutherford B. Hayes”
The college-rock of the '80s didn’t get any more collegiate than Great Plains, the Columbus, Ohio band who asked important questions like “Why do punk rock guys go out with new wave girls?” and imagined scenarios like “Martin Luther King and Martin Luther Drinking.” You can learn a lot about Buckeye State history from this song, including the fact that legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was the grandson of our 19th president. Which, unfortunately, is not true.
They Might Be Giants -- “James K. Polk”
All of They Might Be Giants’ songs basically sound like they’re about presidents. This one actually is. A lot of good information for you Election of 1844 buffs here. However. I have never heard Martin Van Buren referred to as an abolitionist anywhere outside of this song. I think we’re in serious “Rutherford B. Hayes is Woody’s grandpa” territory here.
Willie Eason -- “Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Poor Man's Friend”
Eason was one of the first musicians to introduce lap steel guitar to church services, helping to create the "sacred steel" genre. His listing of FDR’s many accomplishments on behalf of the little folks would have made a great campaign testimonial, except it’s also about how the president died while his portrait was being painted.
Electric Six -- "Jimmy Carter"
The Man from Plains is compared here to electric underwear, “an idea that never had any chance to go anywhere.” I guess that’s a tribute?
Y.G. feat Nipsey Hussle -- “FDT”
And here’s one for the new guy. Rae Sremmurd’s “Up Like Trump” sure got a lot less fun as 2016 wore on. You know whose initials are DT, and you can guess what the “F” stands for. Y.G. goes all in, standing up for Mexican-Americans and dropping the disclaimer. “I like white folks, but I don't like you.” “He just says what we’re all thinking” goes both ways, you know.
Young Jeezy feat. Nas -- “My President Is Black”