“It’ll kinda be like Jurassic Park,” my dad told me. During the summer of 1993, that was a powerful selling point for a 10-year-old boy, and those words were just enough incentive to get me to go with him into The Hall of Presidents attraction at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Animatronic dinosaurs, animatronic presidents. Same difference, right? Uh, no, Dad.
More than 20 years later, you have my dad’s cunning ruse to thank for this feature, which, ironically, I’m now trying to convince you to click on and enter. Truthfully, it’s nothing like Jurassic Park. But I do remember those presidents, in all their herky-jerky robotic glory, coming to life on that stage, and I also recall thinking, “What would they think about stuff like Super Mario Bros. or my new sneakers with the pumps built into the tongues?” That’s pretty much the gist of this feature.
For the Fourth of July this year, we decided to downplay burgers and fireworks and hark back to the seven men — George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Jay — who we know as the founding fathers. Our question: If they were around today, what would be shuffling on their iPods and pumping through their Beats? It’s sort of like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s definitely a chance to show off for our old history teachers. But, really, it’s just a bit of historical fun.
So, have a happy and fruitful Fourth. Save room for your Cousin Reba’s soggy pretzel Jello. And check out our Founding Fathers Playlists. What the hell … It’ll kinda be like Jurassic Park.
1. P.O.D. – “Revolution”
This one is a no-brainer. George Washington was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, leading the forces that would pry colonial control from King George III. He definitely could’ve bumped this crossing the Delaware.
2. Rage Against the Machine – “Freedom”
G.W. and Rage Against the Machine are a match made in opposition to oppressive governments. Seriously, what better song for the ultimate freedom fighter than the raucous “Freedom”, right? It’s perfect fuel for bayoneting redcoats.
3. Clipse – “Virginia”
The first president of these great United States of America was born and raised on a plantation in colonial Virginia. The duo Clipse was born there nearly three centuries later. The former harvested tobacco; the latter cooked coke. (Both kill.) George would be all for this anthem devoted to his commonwealth.
4. Lil Wayne & DJ Drama Ft. Detroit Red, Freeway, & Willie Da Kid – “Cannon” (Remix)
During the Boston Campaign, George Washington commissioned Con Henry Knox to retrieve cannons lost in fallen forts. The cannons helped fortify Dorchester Heights, and it was a major victory for Washington and the patriots.
5. Fort Minor – “Remember the Name”
George Washington is far and away the most recognizable figure in all of American history. Good luck finding someone who isn’t familiar with his résumé. He earned his rep. Pay homage.
6. J. Cole – “Dolla & A Dream II”
This song is incredibly relatable for the inaugural POTUS who is also the face of the U.S. dollar bill. Additionally, he dreamt of a republic free from British tyranny. Safe to say he got his wish.
7. KT Tunstall – “Black Horse & A Cherry Tree”
When he was a kid, George allegedly chopped down a cherry tree and admitted to his father that he’d done it, proclaiming, “I cannot tell a lie,” further cementing his legend. His horse was white, but whatever.
1. Dropkick Murphys – “Shipping up to Boston”
John Adams was born in Quincy, MA., just south of Boston. He attended Harvard and cut his teeth as a politician in Boston before ascending to the presidency. After his defeat for reelection, Adams “shipped back up” to Quincy, where he eventually died in 1826.
2. Rick Ross – “White House”
Rick Ross has always had high aspirations for power (also see: “Presidential”), and in this cut from his debut album, Port of Miami, Ross imagines his life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Adams also dreamed about the POTUS’ residence while living at a local hotel because construction on the White House was being finished for most of his term. Adams eventually moved in and became the first president to live there.
3. Blink-182 – “Aliens Exist”
Tom Delonge worried about green men in flying saucers; Adams worried about European immigrants. Nevertheless, both agree: aliens exist. In the wake of the French Revolution, Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts, which sought to protect national security (although historians now say it was a veiled attempt at voter suppression against immigrants, who tended to support his opponent, Thomas Jefferson).
4. Jay Z – “Takeover”
In that late ’90s and early ’00s, Jay Z and Nas had one of the most famous beefs in hip-hop. Adams’ greatest political enemy was fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton. After he failed to be reelected president, Adams spent three years writing and having his letters published in a Boston newspaper (the 19th century equivalent of a diss track) to disprove Hamilton’s previous attacks on his character. Over 200 years later, Jay Z’s line rings true — “Your chest in the line of fire with your thin-ass vest” — especially with regard to Hamilton’s famous death.
5. Kanye West – “Big Brother”
’Ye is to Jay as Thomas Jefferson was to John Adams, as the young up-and-comers knocked off the established veterans. (Like Kanye West and Jay Z, Jefferson and Adams were separated in age by seven years.) In “Big Brother”, Kanye struggles with his relationship with Jay Z as both mentee/mentor and as competitors. Similarly, Jefferson ousted Adams for his bid to be reelected as president, but after retiring, Adams rekindled their friendship in a correspondence that would be compiled as the much-revered Adams-Jefferson Letters—call it their Watch the Throne.
6. The Game ft. Busta Rhymes – “Like Father, Like Son”
The Game goes sentimental about his dad in “Like Father, Like Son”, but it’s Busta Rhymes’ hook that captures the essence of the track: “I hope you grow up to become that everything you can be/ That’s all I wanted for you young’n, like father, like son.” “Like father, like son” must’ve been a mantra in the Adams household as well, as son John Quincy Adams would follow his father into politics. Before his death a little over a year later, John Adams got to see John Quincy Adams become the sixth President of the United States.
7. Ice Cube – “It Was a Good Day”
Ice Cube wrote this track as a positive reflection on life, which stood in contrast to the violence of South Central that often inspired his lyrics. Despite still being bitter about losing the presidency to Jefferson for the rest of his life, Adams seemed at peace on his deathbed when he heard that it was July 4th. (Jefferson actually died that very same day.) Upon learning the date, Adams reportedly replied, “It is a great day. It is a good day.”
1. Puff Daddy ft. The Notorious B.I.G., The Lox, and Lil’ Kim – “It’s All About the Benjamins”
Hard to imagine this track not finding its way onto Franklin’s iPod mix. Franklin, the original baller/shot-caller, was the Chuck Schwab of managing Benjamins before there even were Benjamins and could drop a dope rhyme to boot, as evidenced on his Poor Richard’s Almanac mixtape: “A penny saved is a penny earned/ If a hussy be a spendthrift/ That harlot get spurned/ Early to bed, early to rise/ Makes B. Diddy healthy, WEALTHY, and wise/ It’s all about the Me’s, baby.”
2. Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me with Science”
Franklin was the original American Renaissance man and, as we all learned in elementary school, an accomplished inventor and scientist. Granted, if you took him to the children’s section of your typical science center, he’d likely drop a deuce after seeing what any modern eight-year-old knows about the natural world. So, if you happen to be a co-ed with a thing for balding, paunchy deists, you could probably get into those founding father pantaloons right quick by cooing about DNA or dropping a little basic string theory on Ben. He’d be putty in your hands … or burn you at the stake for being a witch.
3. Benjamin Franklin – “My Name Ben Frank”
Come 5 o’clock, founding fathers are just regular dudes, like you and me. And which one of us wouldn’t peep out a song with our name in the title? I once shelled out for a José Melis record called Christmas with Melis just for that reason. Never played it once. Best five dollars I ever spent.
4. Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams – “Get Lucky”
As the first United States Ambassador to France, Franklin would’ve been privy to France’s best export (since black, scratchy, wool sweaters, anyway) before any of us. Hell, the punks daft would’ve probably gotten old Ben fitted for his own honorary group helmet. And even though Franklin’s well known for his “early to bed, early to rise” axiom, exceptions to bedtime would undoubtedly be made if Ben was “up all night to get lucky.”
5. Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s – “I Am a Lightning Rod”
Before Franklin invented the lightning rod (also dubbed the “Franklin Rod”), structures of any considerable height (e.g., a church or town hall) were basically bonfires waiting to be lit by Mother Nature. Of course, Ben might be a little put off by this Margot feller singing, “I will be your lightning rod/ Delivering sound to you.” “No, no, no. That’s not what my Franklin Rod does at all!” “Delivering sound to you.” “You’re still not understanding the rod’s primary function … just, ah, let your damn house burn down, Margot! Ben Frank out.”
6. Bruce Springsteen – “Streets of Philadelphia”
Long before becoming the celebrated statesman and quintessential American we know him as today, Franklin was just a poor 17-year-old runaway who landed in Philadelphia hoping to cut his teeth in the printing business. Actually, because he had abandoned an apprenticeship with his brother without permission, Franklin was technically a fugitive. Surely, he would’ve found some of Springsteen’s lyrics about being down and out in Philly relatable: “Oh brother, are you gonna leave me/ Wastin’ away/ On the streets of Philadelphia?” That’s why we call him the Boss, Ben.
7. The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman”
Franklin held down a number of government gigs. One of his lesser known appointments was a 15-month stint as the first United States Postmaster General. Even though Franklin barely had time to develop a comfortable butt contour in the chair behind his Postermaster’s desk, we’re sure he would’ve done well to heed The Marvelettes’ advice: “Deliver de letter/ The sooner de better.”
1. Lil Mouse – “Get Smoked”
There is no doubt that someone at some point teased Madison for his Earl-Boykins-at-best size, commonly estimated to have been 5’4, 100 lbs. Said teasing probably bugged the hell out of him after a while whether we have record of any fuming or not. Lil Mouse’s “Get Smoked”, then, deserves a spot on Madison’s proverbial iPod because of the disturbingly precocious Chicago rapper’s aggression.
2. Bruce Springsteen – “She’s the One”
Madison had little apparent interest in the opposite sex until he was 31, when Catherine “Kitty” Floyd, the (um) 15-year-old daughter of New York delegate William Floyd, caught his eye. Accordingly, Springsteen’s imminent-monogamy track off Born to Run would’ve been relatable for Madison at least until the younger Floyd finally broke his heart. (Madison also went to Princeton in Springsteen’s home state of New Jersey.) Thankfully, Madison would later find love with the bubbly Dolley Payne Todd.
3. Funkadelic – “Can You Get to That”
Madison’s first VP was named George Clinton, same as the Parliament/Funkadelic pioneer. Relative to those bands’ penchant for sprawling and occasionally spooky grooves, the breezy progressions of “Can You Get to That” would be accessible for Madison (and GC1) if he were resurrected today without being acquainted with experimental music.
4. T.I. – “Motivation”
Perhaps unfairly, George Washington is considered to have been the finest of the early presidents. When Madison’s first term came, he had a more formidable list of tasks at hand. Unfortunately, he failed to prevent the War of 1812, much to the dismay of many New England officials. That’s a lot of stress, so the transcendent power of T.I.’s Southern rap banger would’ve been a perfect selection to get Madison hyped in the face of adversity. Hell, today’s politicians and government employees should bump this every once in a while to get psyched about upholding the Constitution.
5. Mac DeMarco – “Ode to Viceroy”
Madison spent much of his time on his family’s Virginia tobacco farm, Montpelier, throughout his life. As a grinning, sweetened pledge to the pros of Viceroy cigarettes, Mac DeMarco’s earworm reflects the relatively optimistic attitudes toward tobacco of the 18th and 19th centuries.
6. The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Puff Daddy and Mase – “Mo Money Mo Problems”
Madison’s face covers the $5,000 bill, the third-largest denomination in the history of U.S. currency. But as The Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, and Mase famously postulated, wealth and baller-isms aren’t all you need in life. Madison had a largely successful career, but his presidency posed a particularly challenging list of obstacles.
7. Neil Young – “Old Man”
Madison lived an incredibly long life for his time, making it all the way to 85. The scope of Neil Young’s folk-rock classic “Old Man” seems to store the wisdom learned from dozens of profound experiences. In addition to his presidency, Madison was also the fifth Secretary of State, a member of the House of Representatives, and a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation of Virginia. Also, like Young, Madison’s impact is due in large part to his writing, except that the latter penned essays (see the Federalist Papers) and is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Young merely brought poetic legitimacy to rock ‘n’ roll.
1. Leon Russell – “Acid Annapolis”
Knowing damn well that the Articles of Confederation had outlived itself, Hamilton called for a reform of the document, something that would provide a stronger federal government, complete with stuff like a chief executive, courts, and the powers to attract some government moolah, also known and hated as taxes. “The Constitution,” you might say. Yes, but not yet. What came first was the Annapolis Convention of 1786, held in Annapolis, MD, in which 12 delegates from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia came together to sort shit out. Of course, this would lead to the following year’s much more popular and successful Philadelphia Convention. But really, could you imagine the chaos over those three days in September 1786? I imagine Hamilton’s mind went a little like this Leon Russell track — crazy yet refined.
2. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – “Hearts of Oak”
Every club needs an anthem. So, it’s only fitting that Hamilton’s volunteer militia, Hearts of Oak, would celebrate with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ song of the same name. “I was walking along some downtown avenue/ I was sharing the sidewalk with my friend,” Leo pines towards the end, and that may describe a proper scene for the outfit’s 60 members, who served from 1775-76 whilst attending NY’s King’s College (now Columbia). If you will, try and imagine this time for Hamilton as his own spin on Saved by the Bell: The College Years, in which popular escapades included a successful raid against the Royal Navy’s HMS Asia and missions to protect Manhattan Island. Actually, maybe it’s more like The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, come to think of it.
3. Van Halen – “Take Your Whiskey Home”
Whiskey drinkers didn’t take to Hamilton very much. For one, he served under Washington’s command in 1794 to take down western farmers during the Whiskey Rebellion, and later his more centralized government reforms led to polarizing taxes on the famous poison. So, I’d like to imagine David Lee Roth’s alcoholic dickhead here in “Take Your Whiskey Home” was the sort of straggler that Hamilton might have had to argue with, or reprimand, or spit on. “But I like that bottle better than the rest,” he’d say again and again and again, as if that were a winning argument. Sorry Dave, I looove me some Jameson, but I gotta side with Hamilton on this one… and I think you’re headed for a whole lot of trouble.
4. Pink Floyd – “Money”
Hamilton made a pretty baller move when he opened The Bank of New York on June 9, 1784. (Hey, how about that! It just celebrated its 230th birthday; and yes, if you’re wondering, it is the country’s oldest bank.) As writer of the celebrated money store’s constitution, Hamilton was the most active member of the institution, which originally opened with a capitalization of $500,000 and eventually became the first corporate stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange. So, it’s likely that Pink Floyd’s timeless Dark Side of the Moon lesson, “Money”, would pique Hamilton’s interests. Hell, I would bet that some of the song’s lines were word for word what Hamilton might have argued for the bank’s conception, specifically: “You get a good job with good pay and you’re okay.” Say, while I have your attention, would you like to hear about our interest rates? ::door slams::
5. Wu-Tang Clan – “Maria”
Don’t hate on the E! Network, scandals go way, way back. Hamilton, unfortunately, wasn’t without his own. Ahem, ever heard of the Hamilton-Reynolds sex scandal? No? Well, put down your Star Tribune, and get this dish: While Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, he maintained a three-year affair with one Mrs. Maria Reynolds (note the Mrs.). Well, her husb wasn’t too psyched about that, blackmailing Hamilton for money to maintain secrecy, which eventually got the worse of them both. Reynolds was outed on unpaid back wages for Revolutionary War veterans, while Hamilton had to fess up to save his own face, complete with details and letters. Shitty deal, huh? It would go down as one of the country’s first American sex scandals in politics. Admittedly, Wu-Tang’s “Maria” is a little over-the-top for this particular story, but the way this song’s graphic nature shocks us upon first listen must be akin to the wave of disbelief that crushed Hamilton’s family upon reading his letters. Yowza.
6. Al Green – “Let’s Stay Together”
Whereas the Reverend was speaking of something far more intimate, Hamilton was using his resources to keep this country’s government strong, central, and effective with The Federalist Papers. Over 85 articles and essays, Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay used the power of written word to motivate and argue their points during the exhaustive ratification of the Constitution. To be fair, the series’ success is rather debatable, even some 200+ years later, but the overall textual conquest remains one of Hamilton’s most commendable achievements. They were also quite divisive, even today. For example, in the infamous Federalist No. 84, Hamilton argued against the Bill of Rights on logic alone, insisting that such a document could later be interpreted as a list of the only rights people were entitled to have. Classic Hamilton, always prepared for the worst scenario, “whether good or bad, happy or sad.” Well…
7. Pat Benatar – “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”
Fuck you, Aaron Burr.
1. Ray Charles – “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”
James A. Bland’s traditional “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”, the first track on Thomas Jefferson’s Founding Fathers Mega Mix #6, is a song that could easily find a home on four other Presidents’ mix tapes, three of whom were also Founding Fathers. Born in Albemarle County, just outside of Charlottesville in Shadwell, a town named by TJ’s father, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” not only acts as a reference to Jefferson’s birth state, the location of his plantation Monticello, and his final resting place in Charlottesville, VA, home also to the University of Virginia, which he founded, it can also be symbolic of Jefferson’s likely weariness from frequently traveling to France both as Minister to France and as Washington’s Secretary of State.
2. Monty Alexander – “Monticello”
After traveling (by boat none-the-less) and having to follow in the shadow of Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson may very well have longed for his Virginia countryside home, the 5000-acre estate Monticello. Monty Alexander’s titular number eases us out of the traditional folk tunes of rural Virginia and into a slightly more fluid state of mind.
3. Oingo Boingo – “Not My Slave”
While on his mega-estate, Jefferson would often walk the grounds, possibly thinking of ways to outsmart Alexander Hamilton, dealing with the headache that was his Vice President, Aaron Burr, or contemplating what to get John Adams, a life-long friend and rival, for his birthday. While on these imaginary walks that I just made up, Jefferson would often find himself out among the slaves in the field. Despite owning a number of slaves (and freeing very few of them), Jefferson had long expressed opposition to the Peculiar Institution, going so far as to prevent the spread of slavery to newly acquired territories. Oingo Boingo’s “Not My Slave” not only tips its hat to Jefferson’s confused morality on the matter but is also a slightly tongue-in-cheek reference to the man’s reaction when he’s caught in a compromising position with one of his slaves. Instead of him saying, “It wasn’t me,” his tune is simply “Not My Slave”.
4. The Police – “Be My Girl – Sally”
But, of course, in spite of the many people who fought against the accusations, it was shown in more recent years that yes, indeed, it truly was Jefferson’s slave. In fact, that slave even had a name – Sally Hemmings, the inspiration behind the next song on TJ’s FFMM6, the Police’s “Be My Girl – Sally”. In true CSI fashion, DNA evidence has since proven that TJ sired at least one child from this relationship.
5. Europe – “Cherokee”
Furthering on in slightly poor taste, we come to the bastard side of Jefferson’s personality. Though he had some issues regarding slavery, but not with keeping them or sleeping with them, he had no love lost for the Indian. Jefferson was one of the earliest leaders to begin efforts to push out the Native Americans from the South and Mid-Atlantic regions. Eventually, American history would call one of the major routes used to displace the Cherokee “The Trail of Tears,” and pop culture history would memorialize it when five sexy Swedes with amazing perms recorded “Cherokee” off their hugely successful album The Final Countdown, hence its position here on the mega-mix.
6. The Long Ryders – “Looking for Lewis and Clark”
One of Jefferson’s greatest achievements wasn’t just in duping Napoleon out of a shit ton of land with the Louisiana Purchase, but in surveying that vast amount of land. Perhaps as a means to determine what laid out there in the vast wilderness that would eventually come to be called the Heartland, the Plains, the Midwest, and the “real America”, or perhaps just to find more space to put Indians, Jefferson needed to know what was out there. After trying on far too many glass slippers, he finally commissioned two former military veterans, Lewis and Clark, for the task and in doing so inspired Long Ryders number “Looking For Lewis and Clark”.
7. Sometimes Band w/ Vassar Clements and Bobby Atkins – “Two Dollar Bill”
Though it was originally discontinued in 1966, most people today are familiar with the two-dollar bill after its reintroduction during the country’s bicentennial. It is here where we end our Jeffersonian playlist, with the Sometimes Band (featuring Americana bard Vassar Clements) and its song “Two Dollar Bill”, the denomination of US currency that features the likeness of TJ on its face and his greatest written work after the Jefferson Bible, the Declaration of Independence, on the reverse side.