American Tune

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For the Eva Cassidy album of the same name, see American Tune (album).
"American Tune"
Single by Paul Simon
from the album There Goes Rhymin' Simon
B-side "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor"
Released 1973
Length 3:45
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Paul Simon
Paul Simon singles chronology
"Loves Me Like a Rock"
(1973)
"American Tune"
(1973)
"Take Me to the Mardi Gras"
(1974)

"American Tune" is a song written and first performed by Paul Simon. The song first appeared on There Goes Rhymin' Simon (1973), Simon's second solo album following the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel. It was also released as a single, Columbia 45900, which reached No. 35 on the Billboard singles chart in the United States.[1]

Lyrics[edit]

The lyrics offer a perspective on the American experience; there are references to struggle, weariness, hard work, confusion, and homesickness. The bridge conveys a dream of death and of the Statue of Liberty "sailing away to sea." The song ends with an assertion that "you can't be forever blessed" before the lyrics return to the idea of work, tiredness, and resignation.

Music[edit]

The tune is based on a melody line from a chorale from Johann Sebastian Bach's St Matthew Passion, itself a reworking of an earlier secular song, "Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret," composed by Hans Leo Hassler.[2] The melody used for "American Tune" can be heard quite distinctly in part 1, number 21 and number 23 and in part 2, number 53. "American Tune"'s melody is practically identical to that of "Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret" and "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded", although Simon expanded on the tune.

Live performances and covers[edit]

Eventually it became a concert favorite, both for Simon and in reunion concerts with Simon's former singing partner, Art Garfunkel. The song appears on several of Simon's solo live albums and on Simon and Garfunkel's post-breakup live albums, most famously The Concert in Central Park. The song has been covered by many artists, notably Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, Eva Cassidy, Ann Wilson, the Indigo Girls, the Starland Vocal Band, Keane, Glen Phillips, Darrell Scott, Storyhill, Jerry Douglas and Kurt Elling. Mandy Patinkin also recorded the song in Yiddish on his 1998 album Mamaloshen.

Simon performed the song live on November 18, 2008, during the airing of The Colbert Report.[3]

Use and references in popular culture[edit]

The song has been featured in the television series, Providence and The Wonder Years, and used as the theme song to Ken Burns film The Statue of Liberty.

It is alluded to in the lyrics of "Independence Day" by Ferron on her album, Driver: "There's a Paul Simon song that just tears me apart... about the Statue of Liberty and hole in a heart." Lyrics from the song are also used at the beginning of Book 2 of Stephen King's The Stand.

Simon performed the song at the pre-inaugural concert for Jimmy Carter, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington on January 19, 1977, the evening before Carter's swearing-in as president.

In late October 2008, the progressive advocacy group Progressive Future produced a 60-second television ad featuring "American Tune" in support of Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The "what's gone wrong" line underscored a photo of President George W. Bush and Obama's opponent John McCain standing close together.

Charts[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Position
US Billboard Hot 100[1] 35

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications).
  2. ^ Bennighof, James (2007). The words and music of Paul Simon. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-275-99163-0. 
  3. ^ Paul Simon on Colbert Report. Colbert Nation.

External links[edit]