By The Landlord
“Man is a military animal, glories in gunpowder, and loves parade.” – Philip James Bailey, poet
“If you're not in the parade, you watch the parade. That's life.” – Mike Ditka, American footballer
“I'm the happiest when I'm in the studio, not on a beauty parade.” – FKA Twigs
Parades and processions – an expression, with people coming together, of the joys, hopes, triumphs and tragedies of the human race, of mixed emotions, from war to civil rights, black power to gay pride, Labor Day to union workers, weddings to funerals, religious and sports occasions to military might to floral and music festivals. It is no wonder that they are a snapshot of society coming together, and great topic for songwriters.
And It’s the big day, the fourth of July. Why? Well today the Philippines celebrates its Republic Day to commemorate 1946 when it ceased to be a US territory and it became officially independent after a long-drawn out process of territorial oppression after the Philippine–American War ended on the same date in 1903. And on this date in 1918 the Bolsheviks killed Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, leading to the Russian Revolution. In 1914 it was also the date of the funeral of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Vienna, six days after their assassinations in Sarajevo, an event that led to the First World War. In 1910 African-American boxer Jack Johnson knocks out great white hope Jim Jeffries in a heavyweight match, sparking race riots across the US. On this date in 1894 the Republic of Hawaii is proclaimed, before being later subsumed as America’s 50th state, with the debut of the 50-star flag in Philadelphia in 1960. And in 1826, Thomas Jefferson, the third US president dies on exactly the same date, 4th July as the second president, John Adams.
The deaths of these two men ironically coincided with the 50th anniversary of another fourth of July, in 1976, the official date of the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, an event celebrated today with what many call “Christmas and barbecues with fireworks”, or as some have joked, “it celebrates our defeating the aliens that blew up the White House after Will Smith attacks”. It’s ironic also that the actual signing, led by John Hancock, was possibly on 2 July, and by some of the 58 others as long as a month later. The Declaration was a statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress, meeting at the Pennsylvania State House, spurring the War of Independence. Independence was declared but it wasn’t won until much later. Mind you, it’s an impressive, important document, written with gravitas:.
Now compare it to the likes of this declaration. A self-parade that almost looks like self-parody:
But while America celebrates with parades, fireworks, homecomings and other patriotic displays, by tradition the US president does not historically take part. And yet the US president of 2019 has planned to mark the occasion with a "Salute to America" celebration in the Capitol, including displays of military vehicles at the National Mall, military aircraft flyovers, and a presidential speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Trump got his inspiration from a Bastille Day military parade with French president Emmanuel Macron in 2017, and had expressed a desire for the US to "top it". But Trump's plans have faced criticism for being an attempt to politicise the holiday and use it as a political event, with comparisons drawn to the controversial "Honor America Day" held on Independence Day in 1970 by supporters of Richard Nixon. Some perceived it as being more like the self-aggrandising display more of a dictator. And it will involve tanks on the street. Where else might he have got the inspiration from? Well, you know – perhaps this the sort of thing?
As John Naisbitt puts it: “Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.” No doubt it will be impressive, but will the Salute to America be as impressive as this one in China? This level of coordination is astonishing:
The original fourth of July parades were slightly more chaotic and anarchic. Military personnel and civilians in the Bowling Green section of Manhattan tore down a statue of King George III and later melted it into bullets; the king's coat of arms was used as kindling for a bonfire in Philadelphia; and in Savannah, Georgia, the citizens burnt the King in effigy and held a mock funeral for their monarch. Although from 1777 parades set out more of familiar pattern, with a July 1777 issue of the Virginia Gazette describes the celebration in Philadelphia with flags on ships and other patriotic material and that "the evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.”
Born on The Fourth of July, the 1989 Oliver Stone film starring Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran, turned anti-war campaigner is perhaps the best known film that uses this parade the frame its plot, from boyhood dreams to disabled disillusion, capturing the heroism and confusion around the event:
Meanwhile Mark Twain said: “The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.”
Parades aren’t always joyful then. They are all about putting on a front, and behind the scenes there is panic and preparation, and other realities, especially for women. Here’s Eleanor Roosevelt on the topic: “Campaign behaviour for wives? Always be on time. Do as little talking as humanly possible. Lean back in the parade car so everybody can see the president.”
“Yes, says Bette Midler. “Group conformity scares the pants off me because it's so often a prelude to cruelty towards anyone who doesn't want to - or can't - join the Big Parade.”
The writer Tom Wolfe also sees the parade as an expression of America’s mixed identity “So many people in this country have a dual loyalty. They have loyalty to America, but they also are determined to have their parade up Fifth Avenue once a year... a Cuban parade or a Puerto Rican parade - many other countries. So they really don't forget.”
But aside from this date, there are many other parades that could feature in this week’s song suggestions. Some parades are all about freedom, especially freedom to spend money. As Adam Smith says: “With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.” So there is of course the original impressive, showy procession of American commerce, the Macy’s Day Parade:
Many processions are expensive, but some are more about life and death, captured perhaps with the greatest passion, tears, joy and musicality, in a New Orleans funeral:
Funeral processions generally involve flowers, but can there be any more impressive floral displays than the Dutch Bloemencorso Zundert, the largest parade of its kind in the world:
Or if you really want to let loose, there’s always a road to Rio’s Carnival:
Sports occasions lead to some of the most impressive parades and processions. The London 2012 Olympics is an great example, exploring the history of Britain, including this section that captures the transformation from the pastoral scenes of agricultural Britain to the pounding era of steam and iron and rising chimneys of the Industrial Revolution.
Can in rain on our parade. Yes it can. And on that, in the Bar this week we have the unlikely but Song Bar inevitable meeting of two minds, Gilbert K. Chesterton, and David Lee Roth. The former remarks: “And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow,” while Roth says more metaphorically: “Van Halen can keep providing the rain and I'll keep providing the parade.”
But no artist has ever provided parade in the rain more triumphantly than Prince at the 2007 Super Bowl:
So then, it’s time to welcome to this week’s street march, this procession of song suggestions, this week’s band leader and chief stick twirler, the parade prince, ParaMhor. Place your songs in comments below for the procession to end for last orders at 11pm on Monday, for playlists paraded on Wednesday. Onwards we march!
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