Saturday, February 14, 2015

Get ready for President's Day with this toe-tapping disco "song poem" about Jimmy Carter

Posted By on Sat, Feb 14, 2015 at 11:25 AM


President's Day is Monday. It's not that much of a holiday; banks and the post office are closed but who else gets the day off? I have to work; you do too, I'm guessing? In observance of the day, I'll do a couple posts about songs honoring a few of those guys, and this is the first of them. Anyway, we start with Jimmy Carter. Now, no one is going to say that the country was at its high point during the Carter administration. However, Carter certainly committed himself to actual public service in his time away from the Oval Office. And one might argue that Jimmy Carter is the only modern president of the U.S. who was far less of a pawn of corporate interests than any, going back to Roosevelt.


It's hard to imagine any world where this could be a campaign song for a President of anything, let alone President. Carter was so relentlessly earnest, so clearly a believer in the power of good work — of course his campaign picked the above song. To find the single best tune about our greatest failed president, we must look outside of the regular campaign cycle or music industry.




Like most people, I first heard "Jimmy Carter Says Yes" on the compilation LP Beat of the Traps: MSR Madness vol. 1. Compiled and produced by NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino, released by Byron Coley's Carnage in the 1980s, with cover art by Dan Clowes, this is definitely a compilation to pick up if you find one. MSR was the name of the company that people would send their lyrics in to have a record made. Commonly called "American song poems," the best known example today is "A Blind Man's Penis," written by John Trubee. "Jimmy Carter Says Yes," which simply asks "can a government be honest?" (a question no one would even think of asking today), was written by Waskey Elwood Walls Jr. and performed by Gene Marshall. The clip above is from the documentary Off the Charts: The Song Poem Story.


Ardolino himself wrote in the liner notes about the context, how these records got made in the first place: The ads in the back of magazines would say "Send us your poems or song lyrics and we'll get them recorded. Big money could be yours!," or some such come-on. What it turns out to be is that you pay them to put music to your words, then they send you a couple of copies of it on their label. And that's all they do. There are many of these companies, but the king of them all would have to be the MSR label of Hollywood, California — now, sadly, defunct. Sometimes the song would be pressed on a 45, sometimes on an album collection, maybe with a picture of the house composer to help convince the customer that they're legit.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 12, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation