American Woman (song)
|Single by The Guess Who|
|from the album American Woman|
|B-side||"No Sugar Tonight"|
|Format||7" 45 RPM|
|Recorded||August 13, 1969|
|Genre||Rock, blues rock, hard rock|
|Length||3:51 (single version)
5:08 (album version)
|Writer(s)||Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson and Jim Kale|
|The Guess Who singles chronology|
"American Woman" is a song by Canadian rock band The Guess Who, first released in January 1970 on the album of the same name and later in March as a single, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has been covered by many rock artists, including Lenny Kravitz and Krokus.
The album version begins with an acoustic blues intro:
American woman, gonna mess your mind.
American woman, gonna mess a-your mind.
The intro then proceeds to spell out the title, then repeats the first verse before fading out and entering the hard rock portion.
The single version omits this intro and goes straight to the hard rock portion of the song.
The song's origins took the form of a live jam at a curling rink concert in Waterloo, Ontario. The group was rushing into the second set and began improvising a rhythm to liven up the crowd. Burton Cummings, the lead singer, began improvising lyrics to fit the music. They liked what they had played and noticed a kid with a cassette recorder making a bootleg copy and asked him for the tape. The subsequent studio recording features the original almost completely unchanged; only a few lines were added. 
In an interview with music journalist Ray Shasho on July 16, 2013, for examiner.com, Burton Cummings stated this about the true origin of "American Woman" ..."It was jammed onstage one night in Mississauga, Ontario, we were playing at a club called the Broom & Stone which was actually a curling rink and doing two shows that night. Between the two shows, I was outside bartering with this kid, he had some old Gene Vincent records that I wanted to get for my collection and tried to strike-up a deal with this guy. The next thing I know,it’s time to start the second show and the other three guys have gone back onstage and I hear them start this riff … I said to this guy, Oh my God; I’m supposed to be onstage man, I’ve got to run, I’ll see you later about these Gene Vincent records. I run inside and run up onto the stage and just grab a microphone and started singing whatever came into my head; it was all stream of consciousness at the moment stuff … all that stuff about war machines and ghetto scenes, colored lights can hypnotize …it was all just spur- of- the- moment. And nobody would have ever heard it again but there happened to be a kid bootlegging the show that night.This was way back in the 60’s and he had a cassette machine, and those machines were a relatively new invention at that time. But this was 1968, forty-five years ago. We noticed this onstage as the night went on and he still kept recording. So we motioned to our road manager, go get that tape,go get that tape! He got the cassette tape and we listened to it later and heard this jam about American Woman stay away from me. So we actually kind of learned it from that tape, otherwise nobody would have ever heard it again. So talk about a Cinderella story. And that was a monstrous hit record for us; it was number one on Billboard for three weeks. So it was all an accident, I guess the music gods were smiling on us. The music gods probably sent that kid with the cassette machine.”
Interpretations of the lyrics
The song's lyrics have been the matter of some debate, often interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics (especially the draft). Jim Kale, the group's bassist and the song's co-author, explained his take on the lyrics:
The popular misconception was that it was a chauvinistic tune, which was anything but the case. The fact was, we came from a very strait-laced, conservative, laid-back country, and all of a sudden, there we were in Chicago, Detroit, New York – all these horrendously large places with their big city problems. After that one particularly grinding tour, it was just a real treat to go home and see the girls we had grown up with. Also, the war was going on, and that was terribly unpopular. We didn't have a draft system in Canada, and we were grateful for that. A lot of people called it anti-American, but it wasn't really. We weren't anti-anything. John Lennon once said that the meanings of all songs come after they are recorded. Someone else has to interpret them.
|UK (The Official Charts Company)||19|
|Canadian RPM Singles Chart||1|
|Switzerland (Hit Parade Top 75 Singles)||4|
|Austria (Top 40)||7|
|Netherlands (Dutch Charts)||4|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Cash Box Top Singles||1|
Lenny Kravitz version
|Single by Lenny Kravitz|
|from the album 5|
|Released||June 29, 1999|
|Genre||Hard rock, funk rock|
|Label||Virgin Records America|
|Lenny Kravitz singles chronology|
Lenny Kravitz covered "American Woman" for the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Kravitz did a slower and softer version, without the signature guitar solo; he later said to Randy Bachman that the reason why he skipped the lead guitar part was "I couldn't get the sound. I couldn't get the tone." It was later included in the 1999 re-issue of his 5 album. The music video featured actress Heather Graham (who starred in The Spy Who Shagged Me); the original political themes of the song were largely replaced by sex appeal. The song has been used in season 2, episode 13 of Alias. It was also used on the YouTube video for Heroes including Niki Sanders, Jessica and Tracy Strauss for Ali Larter.
- "American Woman" (Single version) – 3:50
- "Straight Cold Player" (Live performance) – 3:42
- "Thinking of You" (Hexum Dancehall Remix) – 5:58
- "Fields of Joy" (Live performance) – 4:20
- Best Male Rock Performance: Won
|Canadian RPM Singles Chart||26|
|Canadian RPM Rock Chart||2|
|US Billboard Hot 100||49|
|US Billboard Adult Top 40||23|
|US Billboard Top 40 Mainstream||17|
|US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks||3|
|US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks||7|
"ABC" by The Jackson 5
|Billboard Hot 100 number one single (The Guess Who version)
May 9, 1970 (three weeks)
"Everything is Beautiful" by Ray Stevens
Use in film
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2012)|
It was also featured in Sam Mendes's movie American Beauty. Sam the Eagle performed a karaoke version of this song in a Muppets viral video. It is being used in the HBO trailer for the movie Game Change. A version sung by an older man was used in the film The Cable Guy (1996). It was heard during the ending credits of the Witchblade TV movie (2000), starred by Yancy Butler and based on the Top Cow comic book series.
- Strong, Martin Charles (2002). The great rock discography (Sixth ed.). The National Academies. p. 912. ISBN 978-1-84195-312-0. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
- Greatest Hits RCA BG2 67774 liner notes
- "Type "The Guess Who" under Artist". Riaa.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- ""American Woman" - The Guess Who". Superseventies.com. 1970-05-09. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- allmusic ((( The Guess Who > Biography )))
- "The Guess Who - American Woman/No Sugar Tonight". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- "Top Singles - Volume 13, No. 12, May 9, 1970". RPM. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
- Steffen Hung. "The Guess Who - American Woman". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- Steffen Hung. "The Guess Who - American Woman". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- Steffen Hung. "The Guess Who - American Woman". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- "Cash Box Top Singles - 1970". Cashboxmagazine.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- Pat Pemberton (2010-08-06). "Randy Bachman Learns to Enjoy Lenny Kravitz's 'American Woman' Cover - Spinner Canada". www.spinner.ca. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
- "Top Singles - Volume 69, No. 15, August 2, 1999". RPM. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
- "Rock/Alternative - Volume 69, No. 8, June 14, 1999". RPM. Retrieved 2011-02-23.