On Election Night, I was asked to go sing some songs down at the M Bar in Hollywood. For some reason, as the day got closer, I started thinking I wanted to play a lot of cover songs. I don’t usually. But as I rehearsed, I kept coming back to the idea that there probably weren’t going to be very many people there, since most of America would be home watching election returns, so why not try new things?
On Tuesday night, then, I played at least a half dozen songs that I’ve never done outside of my living room before. There were Tom Waits songs, Johnny Cash songs, a Glenn Danzing song, one by Dax Riggs (those two were my retro-Halloween mini-set), a Lead Belly song (who no one in the audience had heard of), and a couple more. The expectedly small crowd and I had fun, I think.
Lying in bed that night, after finding out that Barack Obama would remain president, I wondered why I’d played the songs I had. I love election nights, have since I was a kid, and I realized that without meaning to, I’d picked out a set of songs that all reminded me of America. I played songs by legends and by relative unknowns (including me), old songs and new from songwriters of many faiths and no faith, across several different genres. And without meaning to, I think I had subconsciously tried to share the musical tapestry that I see in my mind when I think of American music. It was an interesting night, and interesting insight.
Incidentally, there was only one song I could close with. So I did…