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Lists: The five best songs about U.S. presidents

Young JeezyYoung Jeezy: His Lambo's blue.

In honor of the Presidents Day holiday, we’ve compiled an incredibly subjective list of the best songs written about the U.S. presidency.

We’ve tried to limit ourselves to modern era songs about the presidents themselves, not songs about historical events featuring presidents (which is the only reason the Ramones’ “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” didn’t make the list).

For those feeling excessively POTUS-y, there’s always the standout ’08 compilation “Of Great and Mortal Men,” which serves up 43 songs for 43 Presidents.

5. Young Jeezy featuring Nas: “My President Is Black
Nas’s “Black President” is technically a better song, but it lacks the sheer exuberance (and the infectious hook) of this track, released the summer before the ’08 election.

The best of the rest, after the jump.


4. Neil Young: “Campaigner

Like many of the songs here, it retains its awesomeness despite being only nominally about a president. Like many of Young’s best political songs (e.g. “Ohio”), it’s about Nixon.

3. Marvin Gaye: “Abraham, Martin and John
Originally a folk number recorded by Dion, Gaye’s version of this song about iconic assassination victims has an unintentional poignancy.

2. R.E.M.: “World Leader Pretend
A rarity among presidential songs, it's subtle and sympathetic. Released during the waning days of the second Reagan administration, this metaphor-heavy song may not be about a president at all, but we’d like to think it is.

1. They Might Be Giants: “James K. Polk
It’s not the most flattering song ever written about Polk (“Austere, severe/He held few people dear/His oratory filled his foes with fear”) but it’s the only one you’ll ever need. It’s also proof of the unlikely truism that, not counting Nixon, the less consequential the president, the better the song.

Honorable Mentions:
Bright Eyes: “When the President Talks to God” (about Bush 43)
John Adams: “Nixon in China” (the whole thing)
James Taylor: “Line ‘Em Up” (also about Nixon)
Prince: “Ronnie Talk to Russia” (about Reagan)
Son Volt: “Jet Pilot” (about Bush 43)
Sufjan Stevens: “Decatur” (about Lincoln, nominally)
Jadakiss: “Why” (about Bush/Obama)

What do you think? Are you surprised at the lack of songs about Clinton or FDR, or even Bush 41? And why no songs about Carter, since plenty of things rhyme with "malaise"?

What else are we leaving out? Was there a particularly amazing song about Chester A. Arthur we missed? Weigh in below.

By Allison Stewart  |  February 15, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Lists  | Tags: Marvin Gaye, Nas, Neil Young, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, Young Jeezy  
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Comments

"Funky President (People It's Bad)" by James Brown. Do songs about specific Presidential transitions meet the criteria? Either way, it's a kickass song. Turn on your funk motor, people!

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | February 15, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Great choice! Speaking of bringing the funk, George Clinton's "Paint the White House Black" would also qualify.

Posted by: Allison Stewart | February 15, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

How could you skip JoCo? He's got them all:
http://www.jonathancoulton.com/songdetails/The Presidents

Posted by: Hemisphire | February 15, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

No John Foggerty-"Fortunate Son"? Granted, it's presidential by transferal, but still

Posted by: EricS2 | February 16, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

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