It’s either a good thing that John William Ward and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. are dead, or it’s even sadder than I thought. Jacksonian Democracy has finally been made into the sexy rock musical it was always yearning to become. (So is that Amos Kendall in the leather jacket to the right of Jackson, and Martin Van Buren in the skinny tie and tennies on far left?) I have to say, much as I appreciate the academically appropriate low cost of living and general ease of life where I am, there are days when I wish were a little closer to New York. This “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is the kind of thing, among other more healthy things, I daydreamed about while reading my teenage history books. A courtroom drama about Bleeding Kansas! “The Iliad” set to Neil Young songs! (Those were different ideas.) Anyway, someone please go review this for me.
Now, having enthused at the very notion of such a thing as Jacksonian Democracy Rock, the song you can play on Times web site, “‘Populism, Yea, Yea,’” does remind me of the final exam answers I used to get when I taught the all-of-American-history-from-Beringia-to-Bill-Clinton-in-one-semester course at Florida State, with many distant decades and movements mashed and mixed together by hapless freshman. It is easy to confuse your angry loose-money farmers of the 1890s with your angry hard-money farmers of the 1830s; in the class, only that small amount of confusion would have probably netted you a “B.” Of course, these New York theater wags may have read Ron Formisano for their research; he retrofits the p-word back to the Revolution, so who could blame them for putting it in the title of their big number? That same song has a chorus that goes “It’s the Age of. . ., It’s the Age of . . . Jack-son” followed by “Take a stand against the elites” and what I think is something along the lines of “we will eat sweet democracy.” Sweet! Making one of my pet lecture points, the lyrics also make clear that, rockin’ as it might have been, democracy fueled and blithely rationalized Indian removal and violent expansionism.
In conclusion, between the two possible outcomes of a project like this, awesome or awesomely stupid, I am going with the former.
Now playing: Les Sans Culottes – Coeur Vagabond