6 Songs for LBJ Day... One's About His Dick
Today is officially Lyndon Baines Johnson Day here in the state of Texas. The late 36th president's birthday was hallowed in his home state after he died in 1973 of a massive heart attack at the age of 64. He would have been 104 today.
Johnson ascended to the presidency from the vice-presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald. Johnson had not been Kennedy's first choice of a running mate, but he accepted the senator as a way to win over Southern Democrats.
Nonetheless, his presence in the Kennedy administration was negligible to the point that he attempt to seize the powers of the Senate Majority Leader. Kennedy instead appointed him to President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities, a move that would hasten great positive change in the country later.
Once Johnson was sworn into office on a Catholic missal found in Kennedy's desk on Air Force One, though, he was the boss, and his administration has remained historically important not only because of his association with the famous killing of Kennedy, but because of the major impact he had on the country as a whole.
Some of it good, some of it bad, but no one can ever take away from Johnson the fact that he made a difference. Here's to you, sir, and I dedicate this week's playlist to you.
Tom Paxton, "Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation": No list about Johnson in music can start anywhere but with Tom Paxton's famous protest song about the Vietnam War. Though hostilities began under Kennedy, it's Johnson who is most remembered during the conflict as it escalated quickly during his administration. The chant, "Hey! Hey! L.B.J. How many kids did you kill today!" echoes down the year to this day from protests staged during the war.
Paul Simon, "A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Lyndon Johnson'd into Submission)": Simon originally recorded this song in 1965 for his Paul Simon Songbook before reworking it with Robert McNamara in place of Johnson for he and Art Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme a year later.
I like the first version better, as Johnson was known for his bullheaded ability to get his way by browbeating his opponents into submission. It was called the Johnson Treatment, and if that sounds like a dick joke, well...