America The Blues

America The Blues
Lyrics and liner notes by Alicia Bay Laurel
from her new CD What Living’s All About

Podcast of America the Blues 

(Hear the first two minutes of this song on CD Baby)

This is a song about speaking truth to power—not only to despots, but to our own collective power. The operative lyric here is VOTE. If everyone who could vote actually did vote, we could elect representatives who would work with us to reverse the vast environmental, public health, diplomatic, and human rights problems we earth-dwellers face, and make this a sustainable, joyful world for all who live in it, now and in the future. To vote well, we need truthful media (for example Truthout.org or Commondreams.org.) Also, we vote daily with our money; we need to support businesses that further sustainability and social justice, and boycott the rest. We need elections with state-financed candidates and hand-countable paper audits. Thank you.

Katharine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics to American the Beautiful on July 4, 1893; the melody comes from the hymn Materna, composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882. Ms. Bates, a professor of English literature at Wellesley College, prolific poet and author, and ardent feminist, lived openly as a lesbian with her lifelong partner, Katharine Coman, Dean and professor of economics at Wellesley.

Curiously, the lyrics to America the Blues also revealed themselves on July 4th, while I was registering voters for the 2004 presidential election.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Singing and Speaking Vocal, Rhythm Guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Speaking Vocals: Jody Ashworth and Jessica Williams, Vocal Harmonies: Alicia Bay Laurel, Ron Grant and Jody Ashworth, Electric Guitar: Nels Cline, Electronic Symphony Orchestra: Ron Grant, Upright Bass: John B.Williams, Drums: Enzo Tedesco

America, the beautiful,
You’re thorny as a rose:
Radiation, global warming
Poisoned food from GMOs.
Your poor die sick and hungry,
And your wealthy live tax-free,
While they murder ancient forests
The soil and the sea.

America, America,
Greed sheds disgrace on thee.
Vote corporations out of power;
Revive democracy
For future generations
And human decency.

America, don’t blow it
All to smithereens.
You don’t need nukes; you don’t need slaves,
And you don’t need gasoline.
What you do need is compassion,
And respect for human rights,
Permaculture, sustainable systems,
Mediation instead of fights.

America, don’t wave that flag
To con us with your jive.
If the multi-nationals have their way
Even rich folks won’t survive.
We’re all family here on this planet,
So lay down that smoking gun,
And start sharing with your neighbors;
There’s enough for everyone.

I pledge allegiance to the earth
In the myriad stars of the universe
And to all the beings who upon her stand
One family, indivisible,
With liberty and justice for all.

America, America,
Greed sheds disgrace on thee.
Vote corporations out of power,
Revive democracy
For future generations
And human decency.

Don’t wave that flag at me;
Try human decency.