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Book Review: Celebrating the songs of America – Associated Press

“Songs of America” (Random House), by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

From the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the Gettysburg Address and landmark Supreme Court opinions, words inspire America and contribute to our understanding of its past.

Words set to music also play a part, providing a soundtrack to the past and adding texture to deeds celebrated in history books. In times of tragedy or triumph, songs evoke passion, ideals and dreams for the future; lyrics span a range of emotions, from sorrow and distress to joy and exhilaration.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham and Grammy-winning country singer Tim McGraw have teamed up to trace America’s history through songs that shaped and reflected the nation’s mood amid wars, social movements and other times of conflict.

The project began in Meacham’s yard in Nashville, Tennessee, at the suggestion of McGraw, his friend and neighbor. “Why not explore that national soul,” Tim asked, through music?”

The featured songs span nearly 250 years, from “The Liberty Song” written in 1768 by a Pennsylvania farmer angered by Britain’s taxes to Bruce Springsteen’s album “The Rising” that gave voice to America’s grief and determination after the 9/11 attacks.

Patriotism is a common theme, expressed in Francis Hopkinson’s 1798 ballad “Hail Columbia,” which until 1931 was regarded by many as the national anthem. Only then did Congress bestow that designation on Francis Scott Key’s verses about the British siege of Maryland’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Protest also gave rise to song, from laments about the uprooting of American Indian tribes from ancestral lands to hymns borrowed by abolitionists to broadcast their anti-slavery message. More than a century later, the civil rights movement would adopt “We Shall Overcome,” with its decades-old roots in black churches and the labor movement, as its unofficial anthem.

Music took on great cultural significance during the Civil War as both sides used song to express their views about the conflict. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “John Brown’s Body” gave voice to the Union cause while “Dixie,” conceived and originally performed as part of a minstrel review, soon became the anthem of the Confederacy.

The suffering endured during the Depression is remembered through Bing Crosby’s plaintive rendition of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” in 1932 and the upbeat optimism when “Happy Days Are Here Again” was played at that year’s Democratic National Convention.

Singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie gave voice to a social consciousness that influenced the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez through his songs of the Dust Bowl and “This Land Is Your Land.” And Marian Anderson made history in 1939 when she sang at the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution barred the black opera star from performing at Constitution Hall.

The cultural divide during the Vietnam War juxtaposed Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” against “Aquarius” from the musical “Hair.” The same split resurfaced more than a dozen years later between Lee Greenwood’s paean to patriotism “God Bless the U.S.A” and Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”

The book, replete with color and black-and-white illustrations, is an all-encompassing review of our heritage in song, assembled by two of the most accomplished people in their respective fields. Anyone who enjoys reading history or listening to music — or better yet, both — will find it irresistible.

Today, with America seemingly as divided as ever, the authors suggest that music may help to open hearts and minds to competing views. “Of course, it’s neither a narcotic nor a panacea, but music can recast the most charged and complicated of issues in ways that may lead to actual conversation rather than reflexive confrontation.”

Trending: Our Top Outdoor Stories This Week | 2019-06-17 – GearJunkie

Here’s a recap of popular stories this past week, June 9-15, 2019.

1) Black Diamond Launches Z4 Camalot: What You Need to Know[1]

Black Diamond may have crafted one of the most versatile pieces of trad climbing protection with its ingenious Z4 Camalot.

2) On the Cutting Edge: 2019 Blade Show Winners[2]

The 2019 Blade Awards are out. And we’ve got the lowdown on the best knives of the year.

3) Peak Design Travel Tripod Lives Up to the Hype: Review[3]

The Travel Tripod from Peak Design is blowing up Kickstarter. Amassing more than $6 million is no easy feat, and we think it deserves the praise in this review.

4) Last-Minute Father’s Day Gifts for Outdoorsy Men[4]

Father’s Day was June 16, 2019. Whether the outdoorsman in your life loves camping, hiking, fishing, or BBQing, these gift ideas are winners. If you dropped the ball yesterday, get dad a belated gift. He probably won’t mind.

5) ‘Born to Run’ Author Reveals His Eye-Opening Gear Kit[5]

Board shorts, books, and a donkey?! Chris McDougall reshaped modern running, but what’s in his gear stash may be the most impressive.

In case you missed it, we discussed the massive Gear & Beer event on this week’s GearJunkie Weekly Roundup:

Penguin orders independent review of book over antisemitism claims – The Guardian

Julia Neuberger to analyse Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, which includes passages about the Rothschild family

‘Clearly expresses robust opinions’ … Pedro Baños

Penguin Random House[2] has asked Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger[3] to independently review one of its books, Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, after allegations of antisemitism made against the author continue to grow.

Concerns had been raised over imprint Ebury’s decision to cut 30,000 words from the English-language edition of the Spanish book, including passages about the Rothschild family, a banking dynasty often subject to antisemitic conspiracy theories. Baños, a colonel in the Spanish army, had also called the Rothschilds “dominant” and has compared them to the Illuminati in interviews. The cover of both the English and Spanish editions also features octopus tentacles – imagery long associated with antisemitism.

Ebury said last week that it had [4]undertaken a thorough review[5] into the book and concluded that while the author “clearly expresses robust opinions”, they had found no evidence of antisemitism. But on Friday, Ebury asked Neuberger to conduct an external review of both the English language and a translation of the Spanish edition of the book, along with any other aspects that she feels are relevant to making an overall assessment. Neuberger – author of Antisemitism: What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters – was also asked by the publisher to consult with a small number of other independent experts.

Neuberger, who has not finished her review, told Radio 4 on Monday that the UK edition of the book was definitely not antisemitic and said it was unfair to describe the tentacle imagery as antisemitic, saying it had been used to denote people controlling other people since the 19th century.

Looking at the 30,000 words cut from the Spanish edition, she said Baños’ writing “betray[s] a sort of fascination” with the Rothschilds, “that they’re very powerful and very rich and sort of secretive”.

She told the Today programme: “It’s not antisemitic in itself, but it hints at stuff about the Jewish conspiracies: powerful, half-hidden, secretive groups mainly of Jewish men bankers. That all goes back to something called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a fake – it was proved to be a fake actually in London in 1921 – but nevertheless it keeps reappearing..

“I think what would push it over the line is if he’s known to have made lots of allusions, if you like, to some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Because that is antisemitism. I think where people allege that there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world or control banking or whatever it is, that is antisemitism … because it evokes the stuff about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and we know that that itself is pretty nasty.”

She said there were some questions to be asked about the edits that were made, and that Baños’s past needed to be looked at more closely.

Penguin Random House[6] chief executive Tom Weldon said the external review was “an unusual step, which is a mark of how seriously we view the complaints made and the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved”.

He added: “We will give full consideration to the review and any conclusions and recommendations it makes within the context of our long-held commitment to publish responsibly across a spectrum of opinion and a diversity of voices.”


  1. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Penguin Random House (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ last week that it had (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ undertaken a thorough review (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ Penguin Random House (www.theguardian.com)
  7. ^ Publishing (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ Spain (www.theguardian.com)
  9. ^ Antisemitism (www.theguardian.com)
  10. ^ Penguin Random House (www.theguardian.com)
  11. ^ news (www.theguardian.com)
  12. ^ (www.facebook.com)
  13. ^ (twitter.com)
  14. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  15. ^ (www.linkedin.com)
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  17. ^ (send)
  18. ^ (share)
  19. ^ (syndication.theguardian.com)