For a variety of reasons, I love this song (and particularly this specific performance), which I've posted previously - and it's especially a joyful gem for the Fourth of July. This is one of the later performances from the legendary folksinger /songwriter Bob Gibson of his "I Hear America Singing," written by one of his occasional Chicago collaborators, the equally legendary Shel Silverstein, who most famously wrote "A Boy Named Sue" for Johnny Cash, and "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" for Dr. Hook. (He also wrote and illustrated children's books, from the wistful, The Giving Tree, to the subversive, Uncle Shelby's A-B-Z Book.)
This song for Bob Gibson is a wonderful pairing -- and pure Silverstein (and Gibson). Fun, touching, patriotic, and wickedly sarcastic, all rolled into one.
I first heard this thoroughly jubilant song -- that is fun, touching, patriotic and wickedly sarcastic (a pretty tough combination to pull off) done in a live recording on WFMT radio that ended a tribute concert for Gibson whose health was failing. With Bob Gibson wailing on it, I always thought it was his song, but only a couple years ago I discovered that it was by Silverstein. As soon as I learned that, all became clear, because as sweet as the song is, it also has a sly sense of humor (very Silversteinian) rumbling underneath, interweaving and overlapping as many American and music iconic references as can be crammed into one song. Regardless of the songwriter, the song became a Gibson staple in his later years.
Here's that tribute concert for Bob Gibson with his friends, Chicago and otherwise, including John Hartford, EmmyLou Harris, and Silverstein (and a lot more, who at this point, alas I forget). Avoid the annoying “fireworks” that make up the video, and just enjoy –
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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