|Single by Paul Simon|
|from the album There Goes Rhymin' Simon|
|B-side||"One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor"|
|Writer(s)||Paul Simon; J.S. Bach (melody)|
|Paul Simon singles chronology|
"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.
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.
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. The melody used for "American Tune" can be heard quite distinctly in part 1, number 21 and number 23 and in part 2, number 54. The melody to "American Tune" is practically identical to that of "Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret" and "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," although Simon expanded on the tune. Credit to the origins of the melody is given on his album cover.
Live performances and covers
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, Gretchen Peters, the Indigo Girls, the Starland Vocal Band, Keane, Glen Phillips, Darrell Scott, Storyhill, Jerry Douglas, Kurt Elling and Shawn Colvin. 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, and on September 11, 2015, to close out the last show of the first week of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Video Here.
Use and references in popular culture
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.
|Canada 100 (RPM)||35|
|Canada Pop Music Playlist (RPM)||5|
|US Easy Listening (Billboard)||8|
|US Billboard Hot 100||35|
|US Top 200 (Cash Box)||27|
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications).
- Bennighof, James (2007). The words and music of Paul Simon. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-275-99163-0.
- Paul Simon on Colbert Report. Colbert Nation. Archived September 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- "RPM100: Singles" (PDF). RPM (Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada) 20 (24). January 26, 1974. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- "The Programmers' Pop Music Playlist" (PDF). RPM (Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada) 21 (3). March 2, 1974. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- "Paul Simon - Chart history". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
- "Paul Simon – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Paul Simon. Retrieved November 12, 2015.