For most holidays, you can find music that's generally of the celebratory sort. When it comes to Presidents' Day, however, the selection is more of a mixed bag. From the obscure references ("Whip It") to the general ("Presidents and Magistrates") to the more obvious ("James K. Polk"), the American president has been alternately lauded and pummeled in song. In putting together this playlist, more often we've found it's been the latter. Take a spin through our list of 13 presidential songs, one-by-one with selected lyrics/explanations, or in full below, and let us know what we missed in the comments.
They Might Be Giants, "James K. Polk" In 1844, the Democrats were split/The three nominees for the presidential candidate/Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist/James Buchanan, a moderate/Louis Cass, a general and expansionist/From Nashville came a dark horse riding up/He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump
Blackalicious, "Paragraph President" Paragraph president/as a special treat this evening/I have asked America's foremost young poet to read his latest poem for us
James Brown, "Funky President (People Its Bad)" I've got a brand new funky president/And hey, I need to be the mayor/So I can change the things around here/I need to be the governor, huh/I need to be the governor, huh
The Legendary K.O., "George Bush Don't Like Black People" This mash-up released after Hurricane Katrina sampes from Kanye West's song "Gold Digger," and gets its refrain from West's infamous quote, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
Bright Eyes, "When the President Talks to God" When the president talks to God/Are the consonants all hard or soft?/Is he resolute all down the line?/Is every issue black or white?/Does what God say ever change his mind/When the president talks to God?
Pink and the Indigo Girls, "Dear Mr. President" Dear Mr. President/Come take a walk with me/Let's pretend we're just two people and/You're not better than me
Ella Fitzgerald, "Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones" The Jones family has a brand new heir/He's the joy heaven sent/And they proudly present/Mister Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones
Young Jeezy ft. Nas, "My President Is Black" My president is black, my Lambo's blue/And I'll be goddamned if my rims ain't too
Devo, "Whip It" Devo's Mark Mosthersbaugh on the inspiration for "Whip It": "We had just done our second world tour when we started writing our third album. The one thing that we were impressed with that we noticed everywhere around the world was that everybody was totally freaked out by American politics and American foreign policy. At the time, Jimmy Carter was in charge. I thought of "Whip It" as kind of a Dale Carnegie, "You Can Do It" song for Jimmy Carter. We were like, 'Jimmy Carter's a good guy, but he vacillates on his foreign policy.'"
Sufjan Stevens, "Presidents and Magistrates" Presidents and magistrates/spend on golf/and spring vacation/(Peace to me! We are the holy ones!)
Super Furry Animals, "Presidential Suite" You know that we belong/In a presidential suite/Armed guards in the street/Waving back at crowds who greet/And when I look over/Over my shoulder/I can't see my past/It seems so far away
Lou Reed, "The Day John Kennedy Died" I dreamed I was the president of these United States/I dreamed I replaced ignorance, stupidity and hate/I dreamed the perfect union and a perfect law, undenied/And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day John Kennedy died
Manic Street Preachers, "The Love of Richard Nixon" The love of Richard Nixon, death without assassination/The love of Richard Nixon, yeah they all betrayed you/The love of Richard Nixon, death without assassination/Yeah they all betrayed you/Yeah and your country too
Spin the playlist in full: