Song Of The Day 3/6/2015: Dan Bern - "Talkin' Tea Party Blues"

Actual Country Week: Okay, technically this aligns more closely to the American folk tradition than country. If you want to split hairs. Split your own, I’m running low on hairs. Anyway, the talkin’ blues is a neat little segment of 20th century musical folklore which I’ve just decided we’re going to devote five days to later this summer, so I’ll save all the flowcharts ’til then.

Suffice to say the history of the talkin’ blues goes back to the 1920’s, and as you can hear the music doesn’t really resemble what’s come to be known as blues form. And so far every talkin’ blues I’ve heard is exactly the same, from a compositional standpoint. Chord progression is I-IV-V, each verse is a quatrain, plus a stray fifth line that can be used as a throwaway joke. Talkin’ blues therefore lends itself to the art of social commentary quite easily.

Dan Bern’s “Talkin’ Tea Party Blues” is a direct descendant of Bob Dylan’s “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” an ingenious satire of rabid anti-Communist fervor that hijacked the American imagination in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Quite a few people took umbrage to Dylan’s little minuet; it proved to be his most controversial composition before he went Christian for about ten minutes. But Bern’s update is even more dangerous, if only because the new breed of jingo warrior apparently considers it a sacred restatement of his inalienable privilege to tote his AK–47 into the closest Chipotle outlet.

Buck up: There ain’t nothin’ this song says about the Tea Party that hasn’t already been joked about on Dave Letterman or Jon Stewart. In the off-chance you’re offended by this song – well, you’re probably on the wrong blog, but please accept my half-hearted attempt at an apology anyway.
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