Saturday Songs and Stories

Happy Fourth of July! Let’s talk about John Phillip Sousa.

Semper Fidelis

I like John Phillip Sousa. I often say his name with the same inflection as Robert Preston in Seventy-Six Trombones (the movie version that I watched 18,000 times as a child)–“Johhhhn Phillip! SOO-SZA.” His music, for better and worse, defines a certain era of Americana in my mind–the Midwest, between 1877 and 1917, let’s say.

And yes, history is far, far more complex than suggesting Sousa defined the Midwest (a consideration he’d hate!) and between the end of Reconstruction and the entry into WWI–but as I walk around Riverside and Midtown here in Wichita, and see red, white and blue bunting (which respects the flag because it invokes without involving our protected, important national emblem!) I hear Stars and Stripes Forever.

I love the clip above because all those folks above the Dallas symphony are flutists, ready with their piccolos. Ninety-four of them! Why? It’s so wonderful and campy and beautiful and ridiculous and all of those words, I think, describe why I love my country. When it’s done right, it’s impossible and beautiful.

But really, I can’t talk about Sousa without mentioning The Liberty Bell March, because of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. They used the march as a theme song because it was free.

If I ever run for President (I have no intention to do so; I’d like to be Secretary of Education, if that’s still a national priority when Spiff finally runs) I will use this song to announce my candidacy. (Listen to the bell chime, and how the whole band breaks–which makes sense, one must let that Liberty Bell ring!)

Happy Fourth. Stop lighting fireworks. Go tear down the patriarchy.