Listen up: Presidents Day playlist

We were thinking about rounding up a bunch of songs about the U.S presidents to celebrate Presidents Day, but as we started to tighten our lasso around a group of tunes that ranged from the familiar to the obscure, we started to realize how in the 20th and 21st centuries, most songs about the presidents are actually songs against the presidents.

Sure, that would be a fun and flippant way to say “hell to the Chief,” but we really wanted to honor the men who have held the highest office in the country, if not just for the fact that today is a day off. Think about it: No president = no Presidents Day = no day off today.

So as we were poking around on Spotify, we found a wealth of historic presidential speeches. You can find everything from Nixon performing his “I Am Not a Crook” march to Kennedy doing the “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You” waltz. Oh, wait, these aren’t actually songs about the speeches on Spotify, these are the actual speeches. For songs about the speeches, you need to listen to this.

The "Ask Not Waltz" was recorded without irony!
The “Ask Not Waltz” was recorded without irony!

Yes, this song was recorded in seriousness. Hey, it was Camelot, people were so optimistic that they would just open themselves up to ridicule without even thinking about it, in a way that seems hard to understand now.

So, in putting together this playlist of speeches, we figured it would be best to focus on this type of optimism, but not really the whole ridicule part. And there really isn’t much more optimistic than a president’s inaugural speech. It’s that moment where they look out on the horizon they see as a future for the country, and put forth all of these grandiose plans.

It’s fascinating to listen to these leaders speak, most of them actual recordings. Of course, the Jefferson and Lincoln speeches are read by actors, but starting with FDR, these are real audio snippets of the men in their moment in history that they helped define.

It’s also fascinating to hear in Lincoln’s first inaugural address that he had no plans to do anything about slavery. But luckily, he was just participating in the time-honored inaugural address tradition of totally going back on his word. Darn! Said we weren’t going to bash the president. Hey, at least in this instance it was good that he ended up doing the opposite of the very thing he said he would do.

It wasn’t like Bush Sr. saying “Read my lips: No new taxes” and then going back on that one. Speaking of Bush, it’s a curious thing that neither of the Bush boys have their inaugural speeches available on Spotify.

So, without further ado, here is a four-hour playlist of presidential inauguration speeches, for you to celebrate Presidents Day.

Or, of course you could just spend two and a half minutes watching this classic video from Cox + Combes about the first president of our nation.

No, you’re more patriotic than that! Listen to the playlist of speeches!

Have a great day off, America!


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