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July 2, 2000

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That's America, Buddy!

Our left-of-center tribute to Independence Day.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
The Yankee Doodle Boy I Wants to Be an Actor Lady Richard Perry, Cincinnati's University Theater Orchestra cond. by Earl Rivers Originally from Little Johnny Jones (1904) which George M. Cohan (who actually was born on the Fourth of July in 1878) wrote, directed and starred in. The story of the first two acts involves American jockey Johnny Jones going to London to ride his horse Yankee Doodle in the Derby. The third act moves the action to San Francisco's Chinatown and has Jones foiling a criminal mastermind who has kidnapped his fiancée Goldie Gates. Most folks probably recall the song from the 1942 biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy in which James Cagney portrays a high-stepping Cohan.
Star-Spangled Banner Yankee Transcendoodle Joe Byrd Complete with digital fireworks, this comes from an album of "electronic fantasies for patriotic synthesizer" issued in 1976. Byrd was the genius behind two '60s psychedelic masterpieces, The United States of America and The American Metaphysical Circus (the latter with "Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies"). I have no idea what has become of him in the intervening decades.
I Want to Hear a Yankee Doodle Tune Legendary Musical Stars George M. Cohan Recorded 5/4/1911, the song is originally from Mother Goose (1903)
Life's a Funny Proposition After All American Musical Theatre, V. 1 George M. Cohan Bringing us full circle, another song from Little Johnny Jones, recorded at the same session as the previous cut.
Ballad for Americans Ballad for Americans Paul Robeson, American People's Chorus, Victor Symphony Orchestra cond. by Nathaniel Shilkret Music by Earl Robinson and lyrics by John Latouche. This began life as "The Ballad of Uncle Sam" for the WPA theatre review Sing for Your Supper in 1935. The lyrics (which extol the cultural and ethnic diversity of the USA) were cited by a Virginia representative in the House as an example of Communist infiltration of the WPA (if figures). A few years later radio legend Norman Corwin suggested that Latouche re-work the lyrics and re-title the piece and the first performance took place on 11/5/1939 on the CBS radio show Pursuit of Happiness. This recording dates from 2/9/1940.
The Policeman's Brawl/Yankee Doodle Came to Terms How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All? The Firesign Theatre A hallucinogenic trip through American history (or part of it, anyway) and the source of our show's title. Makers of fine psychedelic theatre since 1964, the Firesigners latest album is Boom Dot Bust.
Rewriting the National Anthem Comedy Minus One Albert Brooks For those of you who know Brooks only as an original and witty film actor/writer/director, this relic from his stand-up comedy days (he started in 1969) may come as a bit of a surprise. Personally, I think it's inspired.
The Egg 1776 (Revival cast 1997) Brent Spiner, Pat Hingle, Paul Michael Valley John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson await the vote of the Continental Congress on the Declaration of Independence.
The Stars and Stripes Forever Music for Non-Thinkers The Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band A deliberately awful version of the Sousa classic, complete with pseudo-German "vocal" (if you can call it that) by "Dr. Fritz Guckenheimer" (actually one Richard Gump of San Fransciso who put the band together as a joke and ended up recording at least two albums that I know of).

Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.

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