The Path to the Presidency: Music to Excite the Masses

Grant - A Nation's Hero: Campaign Song

Campaign songs have been part of presidential elections for almost as long as there have been presidential elections. These songs were intended to rally the crowd, encourage enthusiasm for the candidate and sometimes say something about the candidate and his beliefs.

Recently candidates have used already-popular songs for their campaign music, but in the past songs were often written specifically for and about candidates. Many pieces of music were written for Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaigns including the Campaign Polka. Tippecanoe and Tyler Too was written for William Henry Harrison, who was known for his victory at the battle of Tippecanoe. Campaign songs also highlighted the military prowess of Ulysses S. Grant.

  • Students can compare several campaign songs and determine what components are included in a campaign song. Have them identify what they think makes a campaign song effective and what doesn’t.
  • Ask students if there is anything that was included in campaign songs in the past that could not be included in today’s campaign music.
  • Ask students why they think campaigns use music that has already been released to the public. What other songs do they think could be used for campaign rallies and why? Are there songs they think should not be used?
  • Have students pretend they are candidates for office. Have them write a song they would use to get other students to vote for them.
  • Have students write a campaign song for one of the current presidential candidates.

    The invincible Old Tippecanoe

You can access more presidential campaign sheet music through the Library’s Performing Arts Encyclopedia or through this online exhibition featuring  presidential campaign sheet music.

How will you incorporate music into your classroom lessons on the elections?

One Comment

  1. Mary Johnson
    October 4, 2012 at 3:38 am

    If I were in a school, I would definitely share this post with music and art teachers. If the actual notes are printed (and not just the lyrics), small groups of talented singers can practice and present the campaign songs. If the examples include cover art or other illustrations, students can analyze the visual messages, how the candidates are presented visually, and how symbols convey a candidate’s beliefs.

    I loved the ideas for analyzing lyrics. Moreover, song lyrics certainly qualify for the text skills required by Common Core State Standards.

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