Friday, September 20, 2013

Johnny Rivers: Come Home America

In 1972, the US’ presence in South East Asia was a constant reminder of the turbulent times America was facing. We had environmental issues, racial issues, and to top it off, “America’s long national nightmare” would begin with a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel Complex. While most would not feel the impact of this paranoid act dictated by the Nixon administration until 1973, it changed the future of politics and the role of journalism in America.

Watergate did not have to happen, as Nixon needlessly feared competition from Senator George McGovern. McGovern’s grass roots campaign electrified the youth vote with 18 year-olds, as of 1971, able to participate in the electoral process; however, Richard Nixon had one of the greatest landslide victories in American history.

He carried all of the US except the 14 electoral votes of Massachusetts and one lone elector in Virginia. I often wondered what would have happened had Nixon run a clean campaign, as it appears that he would have won anyway. We’ll never know, but he may have been remembered more favorably in history.

Part of McGovern’s campaign strategy was to use a song written by Johnny Rivers and his new songwriting partner Michael Georgiades. The flip side to River’s cover of Huey Piano Smith’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia – Boogie Woogie Flu” that charted at #6, the ballad “Come Home to America” showed a softer and more serious side to Rivers. Like most “B” sides, “Come Home to America” never charted.

From the album “L.A. Reggae,” “Come Home America” featured acoustic guitar, strings arranged by Jimmy Webb, and a wonderful sax solo. Since both Jim Horn and Jackie Kelso played sax on the album, I cannot tell you who actually played on this cut. From the range, it sounds like an alto sax. While some may prefer the rockier side of Johnny Rivers, “Come Home America” has great historical significance, but alas, it did little to energize the public to vote for George McGovern.

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