“Politics and taxes and people grinding axes …”

By Tom Quiner


Zoom zoom zoom zoom
The world is in a mess
With politics and taxes
And people grinding axes
There’s no happiness


Let us pause during this presidential campaign for the break that refreshes: a jewel of a song by the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira. I’m talking about their 1937 classic, “Slap that Bass” from the musical, “Shall We Dance?”

Ira’s lyrics are as fresh today as they were in 1937.


Zoom zoom zoom zoom
Rhythm lead your ace
The future doesn’t fret me
If I can only get me
Someone to slap that bass


These lyrics invigorate me along with George’s infectious rhythm and melody. Listen to Ella Fitzgerald’s incomparable vocals and Nelson Riddle’s always superior arrangement.

There’s something so dynamic about American politics, and the Gershwin Brothers had a special knack for lampooning it and bringing us back down to earth. Ira’s lyrics can be as sharp as they are witty. In fact, they won a pulitzer prize for their 1931 political satire, “Of Thee I Sing.”

Sometimes we need to take a breath and lighten up.

I think we need that today.

We have Gingrich beating up on Romney for his style of capitalism. We have the press digging into Gingrich’s second marriage. We have a president who refuses to let us build a pipeline that would create 20,000 jobs and make us more energy independent in order to appease a few environmental whackos activists.


Happiness is not a riddle
When I’m listening to that
Big bass fiddle


In other words, nothing beats a Gershwin song to make one appreciate the United States of America. In this typically brutal election cycle, let us remember this is who we are.

Americans are passionate people, whether it’s our politics or our music.

The Gershwin’s parents were Russian Jews who immigrated to the U.S. They represent the power of this great melting pot we call America. George and Ira, along with so many others who came to this country, helped to create a distinctly American music.

They helped to build our cities and cure our diseases. They invented things and fought for their/our country.

They didn’t view themselves as being Russian/Jewish/Americans. They called themselves Americans.

Whether you’re liberal or conservative, we can all agree that a great song can unite us for at least three minutes and twenty-three seconds! Especially if it’s a Gershwin song!


Slap that bass
Slap it till it’s dizzy
Slap that bass
Keep the rhythm busy
Zoom zoom zoom
Misery, you’ve got to go


American politics is high drama and pageantry. Tonight, we have another debate (CNN at 7PM). On a stage draped with red, white, and blue, millions will watch four remaining Republicans attempt to advance their candidacy.

For Newt Gingrich, the stakes are particularly high. If he wins, that means the first three caucuses/primaries have been split three ways. It’s anyone’s game.

If he loses to Mr. Romney, who knows, maybe the whole thing is over.

Who knows?


Slap that bass
Use it like a tonic
Slap that bass
Keep your philharmonic
Zoom zoom zoom
And the milk and honey’ll flow


South Carolina was an important state to the Gershwin Brothers, too. That’s where their masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, was set. They wrote it in South Carolina. It was a big flop in its day. Some considered its portrayal of the negro to be racist.

It only began to be appreciated as a monumental American artistic achievement a decade later after George had died.

The likes of George and Ira Gershwin remind me of why I love this country so much.

The likes of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul do too. I don’t like all these guys. Sometimes they infuriate me, but I appreciate how much they’re giving of themselves. Would you want to put yourself through what they’re putting themselves through?

They believe in something that I do, the American Dream. That’s the dream that allowed the Gershwin boys to rise to the top of their field.


Dictators would be better off
If they zoom zoom now and then
Today, you can see that the happiest men
All got rhythm


South Carolina was the setting for American’s first, and arguably, best opera, Porgy and Bess. Tonight it is the setting for American political theater at its best.

Let’s take a lesson from brother Ira: ” Today we can see that happiest men all got rhythm!”

Is this a great country, or what!

1 Comment

  1. Monte B. Gray on January 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Actually President O’bama has’nt prevented the building of the oil pipe line. He delayed it, with the expectations that it will be built after after a safer route has been discovered and further environmental studies have been made.

    It does’nt appear to bother too many people here in Iowa this pipeline is being built, but the feeling might be different if it were going through the center of Iowa. Then we would have to be concerned about leakages and the effect it could have upon water tables!

    It might not seem like such a great idea then!