The art of music plays various roles in the contemporary society. The purposes of music range from entertainment, to communication and even as a channel of history preservation. Various listeners like different elements of songs. For some, the instrumental part of it comes with interest, others, the lyrical part plays an important role. Specifically, for literature, the analysis of the lyrics of songs serves to give and extract more purpose for the song. In this particular paper, the focus is on the lyrics of a historical music hit that despite its age in the music industry, it has continued to make sense even to the modern generation. Various contemporary artists have redone the song to keep making it a hit and giving a new taste to the song. The song Abraham Martin and John will be my focus. I will discuss the reasons why the song was popular, the message that the writer and the artists who sang it intended to pass. I will also focus on the historical perspective of the song as well characterization and originality.
The popularity of the song can be explained from three perspectives. First, it is the time relevance and contextualization. The song was written by dick holler and was recorded by Dion in 1968 when the American history experienced the assassination of two great personalities, Martin Luther King, Junior and Robert Kennedy (Bobby) (Freeland 2013). It made a lot of sense and could easily get into the hearts of Americans because, at that time, America as a whole was in pain of losing these two great political personalities. Secondly, the first recorder, Dion, had just recovered from heroin addiction and giving him the opportunity to record such a patriotic song could give a positive critique that could see the song hit the American music industry.
The song contains the art of characterization in its lyrical composure. In the song, there is a mention of various political figures and activists in the American history all of whom have the same history of assassination. The song mentions Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America, who was assassinated in April 1865. Referred to in the song also is Martin Luther King, Junior who was a leader and activist in the civil rights movement, later assassinated in April 1968. There are also the two brothers, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America, and Robert Kennedy, the junior senator mentioned in the song. All of this political leaders and activists have gone through the same fate of assassination despite their extemporary role in the fight for Americans’ civil rights and abolishment of slavery, not to mention stabilization of the economy.
The message of the song is a tribute to these political figures who had been assassinated. The lyrics address the characters in the song by use of the past tense (has anybody seen my old friend…). This is to symbolically imply that all the characters in the song are dead. The song also gives a message of the political contribution of these characters when it mentions that “He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young.” (third line every verse) In the lyrics, this line is repeated after the mention of every character such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and even the Kennedy brothers.
The song itself is a form of history. It is like a short bibliography for all the figures in the American history who stood for the civil rights movement and finally got assassinated. This is because it mentions in a brief but detailed manner the acts that these four civil rights movement leaders did to the American society. It gives the impact that their deaths had on the American history. Every verse of the song speaks of each character, and all are equated to one thing which is common to all of them, this is freeing a lot of people and that despite the good acts of freeing people from the bondage of brutal civil rights, they still die under assassination.
The song’s originality remains to the writer dick holler and Dion who first recorded it in 1968. However, various artists and film performers have modified the song to suit the political emblem. The most common artist who has redone the song, keeping the original lyrics but giving different instrumental taste is Marvin Gaye. The version of Marvin Gaye was released in the United Kingdom in 1970. However, it never got its audience in the United States of America.
In conclusion, the song Abraham, Martin and John, was written by Dick Holler and first produced by Dion in 1968. Later in 1970, Marvin Gaye did the second recording which was released in the United Kingdom. The song serves the purpose of giving tribute to the political leaders and civil rights activist in the United States. It mentions the four personalities, Abraham Lincoln, J.F Kennedy, Martin Luther King and robbery F Kennedy all who were assassinated. The song carries a historical context, a reason why it was popular and remained intact in the music relevance in the United States.
Freeland, D. (2013, February 08). Behind The Song: “Abraham, Martin and John” « American Songwriter. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from https://americansongwriter.com/2009/12/behind-the-song-abraham-martin-and-john/