Note On Song “American Prayer”


The Gypsy Scholar’s choice of this particular song — this “new anthem” — for the musical essay “Romantic ‘Total Revolution’: The Democracy of Soul & The Goddess of Liberty” turned out to be inspired. He wanted a song near the end of the musical essay that summed up everything that had been written before, especially about the musical essay as an edifying discourse about “hope.”


He knew that the song was primarily written by Bono of U2 and Dave Stewart in 2002 to express “hope” and remembered (but only vaguely) that it was first performed for Bono’s AIDS “Heart of America” speaking tour in December 2002 and then subsequently performed by Bono, The Edge, Beyoncé, and Stewart in November 2003 at the 46664 concert in Cape Town, South Africa for the same AIDS cause. He also remembered that Dave Stewart reworked the song in 2008 for Barack Obama, whom he thought represented “hope” and "the embodiment of a new anthem for change,” seeing him as the continuation of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (He thus produced a music video with a number of other celebrities, releasing it on YouTube in August 2008 just prior to the Democratic National Convention. This put the song in the national consciousness.) This much the GS knew.


But what the GS didn’t know when he chose the song (because, its Obamaesque associations not withstanding, he also wanted a song that represented “hope” and “change,” albeit he wanted to rework the popular perception of the song and put a more radical political spin on it — for various reasons, away from its associations with President Obama in the public mind, but not from the real “hope” MLK offered) was what else Bono had said about the song. I quote his words here because they speak in sync with why the GS chose the song for an Independence Day musical essay — i.e., the idea and origins of America, revolutionary hopes, poetry and politics, the Statue of Liberty (a.k.a., the “Goddess of Liberty”), etc. etc.:


According to Bono, he hopes that the United States, "with its unparalleled economic, technological, military, and cultural power, will rethink its humble origins, the purpose that made it great." Bono described the song as a "paean to America" based on the "poetry of the Declaration of Independence and the truth in the Constitution", as well as “The New Colossus,” the poem written by Emma Lazarus for the Statue of Liberty. In writing of the origin of the song, Stewart said, "Bono was crafting the words in a way that would make people think about the fact that 'America' as a concept was a truly great idea, based on the bedrock of equality." On 3 December 2003 USA Today published a draft of the lyrics. Echoing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the song ends with, “If you get to the top of the mountain, will you tell me what you see. If you get to the top of the mountain, remember me".


Yes, a truly inspired musical selection!