Campaign songs

by Eszter Hargittai on May 14, 2006

For your weekend listening pleasure, some Hungarian political campaign music. I had meant to blog about this a few weeks ago during the elections (it’s just one of about a dozen posts I haven’t managed to get around to recently), but it’s not as though it’s any less relevant now.

The song was written explicitly for the Hungarian Socialist Party’s campaign in the recent parliamentary elections. I like it – it’s reminiscent of Hungarian pop/covertly political songs from the 1970s. I didn’t like it the first time I listened to it, but got pretty hooked the second time. I wonder if it’s at all of interest if you do not understand the language and/or are not familiar with the style. (No need to get into how unique the style is, maybe it’s not, but it still reminds me of lots of Hungarian songs from a while ago, songs that don’t tend to make it to the Billboard charts despite being quite good.)

The most commonly recurring words are “igen”, which means “yes” and “Magyarország”, which means “Hungary”. The bottom of the page suggests that the song was also made available as a ring tone for cell phones, which seems like an interesting idea.

So what are other exampes of political campaigns creating their own songs? I can think of campaigns adopting songs for their purposes and playing them at victory time, but those songs weren’t written for the campaigns explicitly. Bonus points if you can link to the examples.

{ 17 comments }

1

Brian 05.14.06 at 10:49 am

It’s from before my birth (hence an eternity ago), but the Whitlam campaign’s “It’s Time” song is extremely famous politically in Australia. Musically it isn’t much to write home about, but it certainly is memorable. There is a link to the music and the video at http://whitlamdismissal.com/sounds/.

2

mike 05.14.06 at 12:52 pm

Frank Sinatra rewrote the lyrics to “High Hopes” to promote JFK’s campaign in 1960. Can’t find a link to the song, but here are the revised lyrics:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/High+Hopes+Lyrics.htm

Back in the 19th century, when the tradition of the mass partisan rally was still alive in America, just about every campaign had a few. Mostly, like the Sinatra song, they were popular songs with new lyrics to fit the campaign. No contemporary recordings obviously, but somebody went back and recorded a bunch of them for the Smithsonian:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/search/AlbumDetails.aspx?ID=2532

And for a truly inspiring Richard Nixon moment (“giving hope to humanity, more than ever, Nixon now!”), try this ad jingle:

http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/election/index.php?ad_id=1025

3

Kelly 05.14.06 at 1:40 pm

Eszter, to answer your question about people who don’t speak Hungarian: although I have some familiarity with the language, and more definitely the style (it’s very similar to Turkish pop, which I admit to loving), I’m probably part of the unknowing, English-speaking mass you wonder about. And uh, I love this. I’m seriously thinking I need to put it on my iPod (whose name I’ll spare you, although it is a Hungarian name – I have a moderate love of all things Hungarian, thanks to a mildly unhealthy adoration of Steven Brust). To someone who’s only catching every 10th word or so, it just sounds like a very happy, pop-y song. Cheerful, optimistic, emotionally upbeat.

4

ben alpers 05.14.06 at 4:01 pm

Mike,

That “Nixon Now” spot is hilarious. It sounds (and looks) like so many early 1970s commercials (the music bears approximately the same resemblance to actual popular music as “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” did). It’s nearly content free…other than a visual reference to detente with the USSR and China. And there’s something a little unconvincing about a grim-faced Brezhnev standing side-by-side with Nixon while the singers intone “Makin’ friends/Where foes used to be” (you can certainly see why the Scoop Jackson crowd didn’t like this bunch).

My favorite shot, though, is the handmade sign that reads “Nixon is Happiness.”

5

ben alpers 05.14.06 at 4:13 pm

A bunch of old American campaign songs can be found in sheet music and MIDI form here. Some are reminders of how ugly American politics has often been. Take, for example, the Stephen Foster-penned “Little Mac! Little Mac!,” a campaign song for Gen. George McClellan, Lincoln’s 1864 Democratic opponent. Here’s its second verse:

Dem-o-crats, Dem-o-crats, do it up brown
Lin-coln and his Nig-ger heads won’t go down
Gree-ley and Sum-mer and all that crew,
We must beat Lin-coln and John-son too.

6

trialsanderrors 05.14.06 at 10:37 pm

Are you thinking of Muzsikás, Eszter? As about not understanding the language, I’ve originally only known the version by the Ex & Tom Cora of Hidegen fújnak a szelek, not knowing much about its heritage, until I browsed the Hungarian folk music section on Encarta and happened on Muzsikás’s “original”. Since then I’ve always “sung” along, even though I’m not sure what I’m actually singing…

7

Raghav 05.14.06 at 10:42 pm

The Bloc Québécois has music and music videos for most of their campaigns.

8

Spoon 05.15.06 at 12:02 am

You mean other than Wintergreen for President?

The Museum of Television and Radio in New York has a collection of Disney-animated and -sung ads for Eisenhower, complete with catchy 50’s jingles.

9

Erik D. Hilsinger 05.15.06 at 1:58 am

Nagyon szep! When I was at Janus Pannonnius the music was very underground, backhanded in terms of how it denigrated the socialist government. No one felt comfortable with a direct confrontation after 1956 and 1968, so there was a great deal of inflection given to songs like “Jo reggelt, Magyarorszag.” Political subtext was coded and ubiquitous. Even American folk songs were popular in some groups for the antiauthoritarian streak that runs through it. I had to explain the movie “Farkassokal Tancolom” (Dances with Wolves) to my friends because they had no clue about that time in America besides the cowboy and indian fetish they got from the Germans.

10

AlanDownunder 05.15.06 at 4:05 am

Did I once read that Corazon Aquino’s supporters were singing “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” or were they just doing it?

11

Richard J 05.15.06 at 5:48 am

There’s the infamous Tory Party flexidisc of the early 70s, Songs For Swinging Voters.

http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/100b.htm

Sadly, this is one of only two references to it on the Internet. I don’t have the full copy, only the song on the above copyright-stretching compilation.

12

Eszter 05.15.06 at 7:36 am

Thanks for the many interesting links.

Kelly, wow, you sound quite dedicated. Nice to know the enthusiasm transfers.:)

I was not thinking of “Muzsikás”, wouldn’t that be more folk songs as your comment suggests? This song doesn’t sound like a folk song to me at all, but perhaps I separate them based on context and content.

13

Kevin K 05.15.06 at 12:36 pm

A collection of songs from the failed massive uprising of 1988 in Burma can be found at:

Burma Action Group

14

grad student hack 05.15.06 at 8:30 pm

Heard the pop/rap rallying song of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine yet? It’s called Razom Nas Bagato (“Together we are Many”) and features memorable (and catchy) lines like “We aren’t beasts of burden, we aren’t goats! We are of Ukraine, sons and daughters!”. You should still be able to download it somewhere on the net. Lyrics at http://orangeukraine.squarespace.com/journal/2004/11/29/razom-nas-bahato.html

It’s on my pod. Yuschenko, da!

15

trialsanderrors 05.15.06 at 9:35 pm

Yeah Muzsikás is a folk (revival) band. I was more thinking about the “covertly political songs” you mentioned, and their early records are full of songs that can be interpreted as comments on the politcal situation at the time, like in Eddig Vendég (The Unwelcome Guest): “Up to now, you have drunk your fill and had a good time. Perhaps you would like to leave now. Come, landlord, and throw out this unwelcome guest.”

Of course this is all conjecture.

16

mac 05.17.06 at 9:25 am

Here’s the mother lode…

http://www.pzg.biz/cd14_festung_europa.htm

Ugh.

17

Rob G 05.18.06 at 10:07 am

The only Hungarian group I got to know a little was Kolinda. I have no idea if their songs were political, but man, they were good.

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