One tune explored in the e-book is “Dixie,” the arguable 19th-century song that came to be referred to as an anthem of the South. Its racist origins — it was first written for white men to sing while in blackface, Meacham says — have forced Southerners like McGraw and Meacham to grapple with its role in the Southern way of life.
“I’m a Southern white kid who grew up in Louisiana, and I grew up within the middle of cotton fields. Cotton fields have been the lifeblood of my network,” McGraw says. “And as I was given older, and also you hear more of what the records of the tune are, then your head kicks in, and your brain kicks in, and you certainly realize what that tune’s approximately, so it changes your perspective on it for positive. We perform the song in the show but do it differently.”
Meacham says running on the book taught him something new about American history.
“Music celebrates and reviews, and what you spot inside the music time and again — and I did not admire this until we did this, to be very clear — is there is a soundtrack to our history,” he says. “There is a soundtrack to our aspirations.”
On the “Liberty Song,” written in 1768, and how it compares with some other form that lasts, “The Rebels.”
Tim McGraw: ” ‘The Liberty Song’ … It is probably one of the fascinating songs to me, certainly as it is going again to date as written in 1768 by one of our Founding Fathers, John Dickinson. It was registered eight years earlier than the Declaration of Independence. It had an accurate, proactive view of what the concept of our United States could be, what it could become, and what it could mean for future generations, which was extraordinary. That music has a line: ‘Our youngsters shall inherit the culmination of our pain.’
“And then ‘The Rebels,’ it’s something that would anger you, the manner it became written and what it became speaking approximately. It taunted the colonists. So the frenzy and the pull and the rub give you a reflection on what was happening on time, how that propelled matters ahead, and how that propelled people to suppose and take action.”
On listening to those songs as a historian
Jon Meacham: “The uncooked materials of records are the letters of a generation, the newspapers of a generation. I hadn’t notion sufficient approximately, ‘What turned into the track they were singing?’ We talked about ‘The Rebels’ instead of ‘The Liberty Song,’ 20, 25% or so of the usa remained loyalists. So that was the division there. You go to the songs of the enslaved; you visit ‘Dixie’ versus ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ — there is no extra brilliant manifestation of what Lincoln referred to as ‘the fiery trial’ than those two songs.
” ‘Dixie’ was written for blackface minstrel singers in New York City, and trust me, we are two white Southerners, and several individuals do not recognize that record. Suppose you consider that ‘Dixie’ was written for a white guy pretending to be a black guy, making a song nostalgically for enslavement. In that case, that place that tracks exactly where it must be, in an area where it was a manifestation of the worst part of American records — one of the original sins. The original sins of American records are Native American elimination and African American slavery.
“And then, the ‘Battle Hymn’ is written by Julia Ward Howe in a single night. The first time Lincoln heard it, he stated, ‘Sing it again.’ And I assume you pay attention to the anxiety, you pay attention to the struggle for liberty, and you pay attention to the Southern warfare to keep away from and run away from modernity. You listen to all of that in those songs in a way that I locate distinctly affecting, now not simply as a Southerner, but as a historian.”
On the complexities of acting “Dixie” as a part of the book excursion
McGraw: “We desired to attack it in a one-of-a-kind way. Mickey Newbury put together a trilogy of ‘Dixie,’ ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and ‘All My Trials,’ that’s an old Bahamian lullaby. And ‘All My Trials’ at the give up truly provides a perfect decision to both songs, and that’s how we technique it stays.”