J5 came up with a brilliant concept that fits perfectly within the blog and he’s called it “Six Random” — basically I iTunes randomly gives me a 6 song playlist and then I muse about who might appreciate said playlist in history. Why six songs? Because John says so. So here’s my try at it.
Six Random Songs:
“The Fuse” by Bruce Springsteen The Rising
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Crooked Jack” by John Doyle (traditional) Evening Comes Early
“Pink Moon” by Nick Drake Pink Moon
“Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by Jay-Z The Black Album
“Where It’s At” by Beck Odelay
The refrain of the Irish traditional song “Crooked Jack” starts: I was tall and true, all of 6 foot 2. Abraham Lincoln was actually 6’4″ but he was a modest enough guy to have maybe fibbed those two inches in the right company. One of the last verses of the song laments growing old before you’re ready:
I’ve seen men old before their time
Their faces drawn and gray
But I never though so soon would mine
Be lined the self-same way.
Abraham Lincoln died at the age of 56, but I’m sure he felt much older given his lifetime of disappointments, tragedies and hardship. He endured the losses of two significant women in his young life: his mother died in 1818 when he was 9, and Anne Rutledge, his first love, died from typhoid in 1835 when Abe was 26. He was severely depressed by the latter. Cue Mssrs. Crosby, Stills, Nash:
It’s getting to the point, where I’m no fun anymore
I am sorry
Sometimes it hurts so badly I must cry out loud
I am lonely.
Lincoln was born and raised in an off-the-beaten path part of the country. He was born in a log cabin in Kentucky – the first President born outside the original 13 colonies. A little bit out of the way. No turntables or microphones, but perhaps some jig-saw jazz and get-fresh flow — Lincoln could definitely get down with Beck’s white boy rapping:
There’s a destination a little up the road
From the habitations and the towns we know
As we all know, Lincoln came to national focus as the Republican nominee for President in the 1860 election. His victory precipitated the secession of the deep South. His refusal to recognize the right to secession as well as steadfast stance on defending federal armories in the rebelling states led to the attack on Fort Sumter, the secession of the upper South and therefore the Civil War. (See also: Slavery). Springsteen’s post-9/11 The Rising evokes a smokey vulnerability, much the same that I imagine the Union felt as the war dragged on and the future seemed unsure:
Trees on fire with first fall’s frost
Long black line front of Holy Cross
Blood moon risin’ in a sky of black dust
Tell me Baby who do you trust?
And just because the CSN lyrics are too good for this, the Gettysburg Address could just as easily have been:
Remember what we’ve said and done and felt
About each other
Oh babe, have mercy
Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now
I am not dreaming.
I am yours, you are mine
You are what you are
Just days after the definitive end of the War, Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth. Coincidentally, Lincoln had dreams of his death in the days leading up to his assassination. He seemed to have possessed a lifelong fatalism which made him a fantastically hilarious storyteller and a skeptical man of faith. This fatalism is shared in the haunting words of Nick Drake, who himself was depressed enough to die of an overdose on antidepressants in 1974:
I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
None of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all.
Lincoln’s legacy surrounds us in numerous ways. Pennies and the five dollar bill bear his image. The steps of his memorial have become dais to historic political rallies. There’s even a car company that tries to cash in on his name. This attention, though in some ways misguided, is more than deserving of the man who maintained a goal of reuniting a divided nation without spite or revenge for the rebelling side (Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction was different than what was actually implemented; it’s hard to imagine how things would have turned out had he lived to see reconciliation).
But this is all to say that while he probably wasn’t big on boasting or doing things for himself, Jay-Z puts it best:
You are now tuned into the muh’fuckin greatest.