Do you know of songs whose lyrics came from a speech?
April 27, 2009 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Do you know of songs whose lyrics came from a speech?

Having been transfixed by Michael Gregory's versions of Winston Churchill's Great Declaration and Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream I am looking for speeches that have been set to music or been turned into song.

Here is what I'm not looking for. Speeches set to music, but not turned into song. Examples of that would be Baz Luhrman's Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen) or Primal Scream's Loaded. I am also not looking for examples of scripture set to music, poems, plays, bits of novels or anything else. I'm just looking for examples of speeches, rhetoric, that have been turned into songs.

It doesn't have to be the whole speech, it could just be short passage. To give a couple of made-up example: Joe Q. Imaginary chops up the bit about the puppy from the Checkers speech into a 2 minute blues number that he sings himself. Jane Q. Notreal speed-sings the entirety of Susan B. Anthony's speech about being convicted of voting for president to a prog-rock backing.

Stuff like that. Does it exist?
posted by Kattullus to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, the songs don't have to be in English.
posted by Kattullus at 10:00 PM on April 27, 2009

At the risk of being completely over-obvious, there's (et al's) Yes We Can.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:00 PM on April 27, 2009

Heh! I had completely forgotten about it, charmcityblues. Thanks!
posted by Kattullus at 10:05 PM on April 27, 2009

Check out Paul Lansky and pieces like patterns patterns.
posted by tellurian at 10:52 PM on April 27, 2009

Lawless Things featuring I.F Stone. Also John Somebody. Both from Scott Johnson.
These examples and more from this Zoilus post.
posted by tellurian at 11:16 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

On the lighter side of things, there's the Ask Not Waltz, which April Winchell has available here.
posted by darksasami at 11:54 PM on April 27, 2009

Bob Marley's "War" includes part of an awesome speech to the UN by Haile Selassie.
posted by pompomtom at 12:03 AM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't know if this counts, but Ani DiFranco once did an entire album setting music to the spoken word performances of Utah Phillips.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:16 AM on April 28, 2009

And the freedom of the press is meaningless if nobody asks a question... and the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked.

That's a great album. Seconding the Ani/Utah idea.

Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack do a nifty song called The Ballad of Martin Luther King that contains all the expected loaded phrases.

And they were great at SXSW. Just saying.
posted by rokusan at 2:30 AM on April 28, 2009

Then there's "Let's Roll," (i.e., based on a short quotation) by Neil Diamond.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:54 AM on April 28, 2009

Neil Young, I think you mean.

Though Neil Diamond would have been... interesting. Or Neil Sedaka.
posted by pracowity at 3:30 AM on April 28, 2009

The Kinks' Mr. Churchill Says.
posted by Mapes at 4:31 AM on April 28, 2009

Peacemaker Die by Extreme incorporates MLK's I Have A Dream Speech. The speech comes in at about 4:30 into the song.
posted by COD at 5:16 AM on April 28, 2009

It sounds like a Hitler speech but it's really a recipe for hash cookies, Tool's Die Eier Von Satan.
posted by schyler523 at 6:15 AM on April 28, 2009

Paul Hardcastle's "19" was an 80s hit...
posted by nkknkk at 8:30 AM on April 28, 2009

Perhaps "New Kicks" by Le Tigre?
posted by Skot at 8:48 AM on April 28, 2009

Destroy Rock & Roll by Mylo (Wikipedia article, listen on samples a sermon by a nutty "Church Universal and Triumphant" dude.
posted by so_necessary at 9:15 AM on April 28, 2009

Just to be clear, sampling doesn't count, right?
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 AM on April 28, 2009

Martin Luther King Sings isn't *exactly* what you're looking for, but it's definitely in the same vein...
posted by fvox13 at 10:22 AM on April 28, 2009

Phil Kline's Three Rumsfeld Songs ("As We Know," "That Many Vases," and "Near-Perfect Clarity") sets a few of Rumsfeld's memorable press conference answers to music.
posted by gladly at 10:50 AM on April 28, 2009

Check out "Let Us Begin Anew" by The JFK Singers! At one point, you could hear it from a link on this page. I'm afraid I don't have enough bandwidth left for this month to check to see if the link still works. It's an awesome song, though. It's so catchy! "Let us begin... (Let's begin! Let's begin!)... Begin anew... (Begin anew! Begin anew!)"

There's also a CD called "Sing Along with JFK" that has a bunch of songs with sampled speech clips. I'm not sure if that's totally what you're looking for, though. :)

Fun stuff.
posted by ElectricBlue at 12:13 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

asian dub foundation has a song called 'colour line' on it's 'community music' disk that fits this bill.
posted by lester at 12:18 PM on April 28, 2009

Thank you all for the suggestions. When I get home tonight I will listen to the songs.

Too clarify, I'm not looking for samples (unless the samples have been somehow songified, like with an autotune, like Michael Gregory does, or having someone sing along over the samples, like the Yes We Can song). I was mostly looking for songs that have used speeches as a source for lyrics.
posted by Kattullus at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2009

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