Thursday, May 18, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Number One in America

David Massengill is one of those storytellers that just draws you in with his words until even the slightly bizarre phrasings and images make perfect sense. And he's got a way with true stories.... like this one, which he, typically, sings with Appalachian lap dulcimer accompaniment with a rock-and-roll sensibility.... ah, you gotta hear it.

Not to belabor it with a stick, but I recently discovered that the deliberate promotion of doubt has it's own acronym: FUD ([via])

Number One In America
© 1987 David Massengill

In Nineteen hundred and sixty-three
In my hometown, Bristol Tennessee
I was sitting on my mother's knee
Watching "Amos 'n' Andy" on TV

Amos was Santa Claus on Christmas Eve
A little girl was tugging at his sleeve
Saying, "Can I have a doll my own color please?"
He Said, "Honey, you can make believe..."

Just then came a call on the telephone
It was the mayor, he asked if my daddy was home
This was for his ears alone
Mom and me listened on the second phone

Mayor said, "The freedom Riders are on their way
And they'll be here by Christmas day
Our laws they vow to disobey
'Cause our school is as white as the milky way

Well, now we're really in a fix
We can't let 'em show us up like country hicks
But once the races mix
It's good-bye Jim Crow politics

First it's forty acres and a mule
Then they want to swim in our swimming pool
Pretty soon they'll be wanting to go to school
Where we were taught the golden rule"

Imagine them telling us how to live
Imagine them telling us how to live

Chorus:
We're number one in America
Number one in America
Beat the drum for Uncle Sam
Overcome in Birmingham
Dynamite in a Baptist church
Four teenaged girls lost in the lurch
Fire hoses and the billy clubs
Police dogs and the racist thugs
Nightriders and the lynching mobs
Lawmen say they're only doing their jobs
To stay number one in America.

Ax-handles vs. the right to vote
All white jury, that's all she wrote
Back of the bus, don't rock the boat
Separate but equal by the throat

That was twenty-odd years ago
Where's the change in the status quo?
The freedom land is lying low
it's shackled down on rotten row

The black skinned man still gets the snub
When he applies to the country club
But he still gets hired to trim the shrubs
Get down on the floor and scrub

There's a businessman out on his yacht
He's a rain or sunshine patriot
He says it's all a commie plot
To be Number One in America...

[Chorus]
The Ku Klux Klan is still around
With a permit to march in my home town
But only on Virginia's ground
The Tennesse side turned them down

The sheriff stood there with his deputies
Ostensibly to keep the peace
But he made us this guarantee
"By God, They'll not march into Tennessee!"

The network cameras were triple tiered
We laughed and cried, we hooted and jeered
But mostly we stood there unfeared
'Til the Ku Klux Klan dissappeared

In some far off distant dawn
When a Black is president and not a pawn
Will they burn crosses on the white house lawn
And talk of all the days bygone

Imagine them telling us how lo live
Imagine them telling us how to live

We're number one in America...
[Chorus]

Last Christmas Eve at the K-Mart store
A white family there, they was dirt poor
Father said, "Kids, pick one toy - no more
Even though we can ill afford..."

I watched his son choose a basketball
The oldest girl a creole shawl
The littlest girl chose a black skinned doll
And she held it to her chest and all

I watched to see how they'd react
Since they were white and the doll was black
But the mom and dad were matter-of-fact
They checked to see if the doll was cracked

So may you make a rebel stand
Where black and white go hand in hand
Until they reach the freedom land
Where the lion lies down with the lamb

Chorus:
O Number one in America
Number one in America
Beat the drum for Uncle Sam
Overcome in Birmingham
Dynamite in a Baptist church
Four teenaged girls lost in the lurch
Firehoses and the billy clubs
Police dogs and the racist thugs
Turn back the clock to Little Rock
Bought and sold on the auction block
Nightriders and the lynching mobs
Lawmen say they're only doing their job
To stay number one in America

We shall overcome someday

2 comments:

Terry said...

Wow. I'd never heard of David Massengill before, but I'll look for him now. Thanks for posting this.

Jacqui and Craig said...

I know this is two years old, but I thought I'd share: When I was in high school in NJ, my girlfriend and I used to sneak into NYC to see him perform at a place called "The Speakeasy," among others. One night he forgot the lyrics to one of his songs and, geek that I was, I fed him the line. I still have two of his tapes with hand-drawn inserts. Good times... Goooood times.