Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Rights of the People

I can't decide if this is the ultimate in subversive kitsch or a kind of authoritarian countersubversion. It's the decidedly un-hip pop group The 5th Dimension singing the American Declaration of Independence set to gloriously baroque pop music. Unfortunately, this is just a music track not an actual performance. But I've counted this as a guilty pleasure probably since it came out in 1970. On the one hand it's sort of an "Up With People" Rockwellian populist co-optation, something the entire family could smile warmly to as it aired on some television variety show without question. On the other hand, it's the fucking declaration of independence turned into a sort of glossy soul showtune, and the lines they choose to make the most memorable sound practically insurrectionary. Which I suppose it was. With hooks and harmony. I was reminded of it last night and tracked it down to youtube. I believe the original album track segued into "A Change Is Gonna Come."

I'm reading Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," which I strongly recommend to anyone who has the whitewash of childhood education too freshly coating their brains or to people like me so long from the school books the facts need a little freshening up. If an accurate teaching of American history proves anything, it's that American mythology needs to be approached with a questioning mind open to subversion. Who better than a soul group even your mother could love to start asking the right questions?

Can you surry? Do you picnic?

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