Well, today is Lincoln's birthday, so there. We're celebrating it. Coming from the Land of Lincoln (as it says on Illinois license plates), I've always had a particularly fond affinity for the fellow. I especially remember a trip I took downstate with my Grandma Rose when I was probably around 10, and we went to Springfield. I still remember touring Lincoln's home there, and then taking a day trip out to nearby New Salem which had been renovated to be as much like it was when Lincoln lived there as it could. (I recall that as a little kid, I was taken aback by how musty the whole town smelled, but I still loved wandering through the old village.)
Anyway, in honor of the day, here is a sketch from Stan Freberg's follow-up to his classic comedy album Stan Freberg presents The United States of America. Volume 1: The Early Years. This is the appropriately-named, Volume 2: The Middle Years, released in 1996 by Rhino Records, when my friend Harold Bronson was head of the label.
(You can get both CDs together here. The sequel isn't remotely as strong as the original, which is about as wonderful as a comedy album can be, but it's a pleasure to have, after so many decades of waiting, and though some of it falls flat, there's some good material throughout.)
And one of the things that we get on Volume 2 is material on Abraham Lincoln, which seems pretty darn appropriate to play today.
Famously, Lincoln is one of the reasons the Broadway version of the material never happened, which is also why there was such a long delay of over 40 years to get it. Producer David Merrick wanted Freberg to rework the sequence, saying "Take Lincoln out of the Civil War -- he doesn't work!" As you might imagine, Freberg was aghast at the suggestion. With both Merrick and Freberg having such strong egos, and Merrick legendary for playing mind games with people, and Freberg legendary for being so protective of his material, the relationship eventually collapsed. Freberg devotes a whole chapter to the disaster in his terrific autobiography, It Only Hurts When I Laugh.
So, in honor of Honest Abe, here one of scenes from Volume 2. It features Freberg as Lincoln, and Tyne Daly as Mary, with the wonderful June Foray as Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Sherman Hemsley playing Dred Scott.
(My recollection is that when they were about to make the sequel, Tyne Daly ran into Freberg and went out of her way to impress upon him what a huge fan she was of the original, to the degree of performing sketches from it verbatim, and how much she wanted to be in the new work. And so, she was in the new work.)
This time. she plays Barbara Frietchie. It comes following a sketch in which Freberg, as a representative of President Lincoln, comes to Frietchie with a PR gimmick. And that's what leads into her singing, "Shoot If You Must."