Friday, May 21, 2010

American Heart by Jonathan Kahn aka Jon David

The Wall Street Journal is good at a lot of things, reporting about music is not one of them. Neil King of the WSJ transformed the fascinating story of Jonathan Kahn, the artist who composed and perform "American Heart" the anthem of the Tea Party movement into a one-sided criticism of liberal intolerance.  Could I do better job?  Yes, read on. 

What is story "American Heart" really about music, politics, or something different altogether?

A couple days ago a friend of mine e-mailed me about the song "American Heart"  He also sent me this link to a Wall Street Journal article about this song.

Here’s a quick summary of the article: Jonathan Kahn, a Hollywood screenwriter, director and songwriter has been performing his song “America Heart” at Tea-Party conventions. Until recently he has been hiding his identify with a hat and sunglasses and performed under the pseudo-name “Jon David.”

Because Kahn was afraid of being “ostracized in a the town where he peddles his songs and scripts,” Kahn created identity because as he states “In Hollywood, being a conservative is the kiss of death.”

Music producer Afanasieff (responsible for hits like "A Whole New World") is quoted in this article stating, "I mean, he's a member of a huge, Democratic, liberal organization called the Los Angeles entertainment business."  Of course, this is a gross over-generalization. 

Is this any different than when the country music community reacted to the Dixie Chicks by blacklisting them off radio stations when Natalie Maines criticized George Bush?

Should the Dixie Chicks have gotten as much heat as they did for expressing what they thought? No, and should Kahn be criticized by his peers for having a political belief that doesn’t line up with people in his industry, of course not.

What’s fascinating about all of this is there is nothing inherently conservative, Republican or “Tea Party” about “American Made.” (Follow this link to the lyrics). Except for the second verse, this song rings pretty true to my own personal liberal-tilted political viewpoint.

Musically this song has a nice “Bob Seeger” sheen. It works well as an anthem balancing out the more introspective verses with a more declarative chorus. However, there’s nothing “Tea Party” the melody or the harmonies.

This isn’t a knock against the quality of this song but rather an observation that the political nature of this anthem has less to do with the song itself and more to do with the phenomenon of musical meaning coming from outside the music.

This situation is less a political issues but rather a symptom of a general lack of acceptance of political pluralism in certain people's minds. It's sad that both liberals and conservatives have displayed this insidious lack of acceptance, which I do not believe characterizes the majority of people in both of these groups.

What's going to be the most telling part of this story is whether or not Kahn revealing his identity will actually have similar ramifications as it did for the Dixie Chicks. If it does and Kahn is ostracized in a business sense then there is shame on the film industry.  If not then this is a story more about the feeling of political victimization rather than the reality of political intolerance.

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