MIXING POP AND POLITICS….IT’S OLDER THAN YOU THINK

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The contest to choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for the 2016 Presidential election in the USA is both grotesque and fascinating. The news clips we get here in the UK usually has a reporter talking to camera at the end of a rally in which a politician is waving to a crowd while a well-known pop or rock song plays in the background.

I had thought this was a fairly recent phenomena, dating back to the 90s when Clinton and Blair used their youth to appeal to voters, part of which was about sharing their musical tastes with the electorate. But nope, it goes back way beyond that, to at least another youthful candidate who was trying to barge in on things.

OK, the 60s was an era for mixing pop and politics ( (c) Billy Bragg) with all the protest songs about Vietnam. But I certainly hadn’t known that Frank Sinatra, arguably the biggest singing star on the planet back in 1960, had made a recording endorsing the virtues of a US presidential candidate.

I can’t imagine that too many readers of this blog were around when John Fitzgerald Kennedy burst on to the scene, so it’s hard to really get a proper picture of how much of an impact he actually had.

History has, on the whole, been very kind to JFK. The popular conception we have is of an incredibly charismatic individual blessed a common touch who appealed to all sectors of society, offering a brand and style of politics never seen before. It might then come as a bit of a surprise to learn that he did not have an easy passage to the White House in the 1960 presidential election. Far from it.

That particular presidential contest was extremely close – Kennedy beat his rival Richard Nixon by only 0.2% in the popular vote.

The endorsement of Kennedy by the likes of Sinatra and his buddies in the showbiz world might just have been what helped him stumble over the line as the winner. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it certainly didn’t do him any harm. Here’s what one blogger, at whose place I found said song had to say about it:-

“In 1960, Frank Sinatra was very involved in helping to get John Kennedy elected President. He was an active campaigner for JFK and performed at countless Democratic fundraisers. If you believe the rumors, Sinatra even acted as the middle man between Joe Kennedy and the mob to help deliver the union vote in West Virginia and Chicago. After Kennedy won the election, Sinatra was given the task of personally planning the inauguration gala.”

So it’s hardly surprising that modern-day politicians are keen to get the endorsement of high-profile musicians when they seek public office. Words of support at a concert might just encourage a few more voters to go one way rather than the other, and in a close contest make all the difference. But surely we’ll never get to hear anything as astonishing as today’s offering. It would be like Bono re-writing the lyrics to one of the singalong U2 numbers. Be amazed and bemused and entertained by:

mp3 : Frank Sinatra – High Hopes (JFK version)

Enjoy

5 thoughts on “MIXING POP AND POLITICS….IT’S OLDER THAN YOU THINK

  1. One of my favorite pastimes of the political season is watching musicians take candidates to task for using their music. I think the best so far this cycle was Donald Trump using R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Michael Stipe and Mike Mills responded with the following: “Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.” Republicans have been known to have a little trouble finding rock bands that will go along. Modern country, no problem.

  2. Great piece. Thanks to my Dad’s fondness for his music, I know a fair bit about Sinatra’s recordings, though I hadn’t previously heard the JFK ‘High Hopes’ until it was played out on one of the BBC’s Sinatra centenary programmes in December.
    (I think that your link to the tune is down).

  3. I’ve gorging on Mad Men at the moment, and they have the JFK/Nixon contest as the undercurrant of one story.
    If it’s accurate, the advertising agencies of 1960’s New York were staunch republicans and hated JFK. You’d think they’d be progressive

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