February 12th is President Abraham Lincoln's birthday. I happen to have a performance at the Chicago Elbo Room Acoustic Lounge (9 pm, $5 at the door) that evening, and when I told my wife about the date and we realized that it was President Lincoln's birthday, we talked about a film I watch at least once a year: Holiday Inn. There's sequence in that movie which involves celebrating President Lincoln's birthday featuring Bing Crosby in blackface while singing a quite catchy Irving Berlin tune dedicated to President Lincoln (although some of the lyric is grating, using terms like "darky"...and I am NOT amused by "race humor" in any way -- but Fred Astaire's dancing and Irving Berlin's music is a heavenly match despite the racism, which was unfortunately common in films of that period).
Since I have a show coming up on President Lincoln's birthday, I decided to challenge myself to write a song about the man. He is considered one of the greatest leaders of the United States -- and with great reason. In researching the subject, I was reminded that he started out life with not much, and was mostly self-educated. From the beginning of his life, he and his family deplored slavery. He was to become one of the most important figures in American leadership ever. On his watch he and his team of unlikely political allies literally freed hundreds of thousands of slaves and managed to keep the country from fracturing completely leading up to and then through The Civil War. Ultimately, President Lincoln explicitly set into motion great change of eliminating slavery from this country (eventually four million slaves were freed by a combination of executive order and several constitutional amendments). Of course there is a great gap between freedom and equality, and we are still very much fighting for equality in this country today. But freedom is a huge starting point worth praising.
To honor the man in song, I wanted to condense his story into a handful of segments that Icould then accent with some appreciation (with the chorus/refrain eventually ending up being along the lines of "thank you, Abraham"). At first I wasn't sure about ending the song with references to the present -- specifically bringing to the fold President Obama. But I think it works -- we'll see what others think. I am going to try it out live before another audience prior to the February 12th date, and hopefully I will get a chance to record the song to share online on February 12, 2012.
If you're interested in learning more about Abraham Lincoln, you can look forward to a new movie coming out in December 2012 about Abraham Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis with director Steven Spielberg. Better yet, get the 2005 book by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals. http://www.doriskearnsgoodwin.com/team-of-rivals.php The upcoming movie is based on her book.