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Thor

America the Dream Goes On

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I bumped into this again in my walkthrough of Williams' concert works. It had been a while. We all know the story of the Boston Pops debacle and all that, but I wonder: What is the story behind this piece? And why did it turn out the way it did (something better suited for a Trump rally than anything in Williams' oeuvre)?

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We're not allowed to go into political discussions here, but safe to say, it's an extremely patriotic piece which is so over-the-top, it almost sounds like a parody. I'm curious how the piece came into being.

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I do my best not to start a political conversation, but I will say that I take offense at the suggestion that something patriotic be dismissed the way you're dismissing it.  There's nothing wrong with patriotic music.  Also, there's nothing patriotic about what's happening with Trump; it's the illusion of patriotism.

 

Like "America, the Dream Goes On" or not -- and I don't -- it isn't that.

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7 minutes ago, Bryant Burnette said:

I do my best not to start a political conversation, but I will say that I take offense at the suggestion that something patriotic be dismissed the way you're dismissing it.  There's nothing wrong with patriotic music.  Also, there's nothing patriotic about what's happening with Trump; it's the illusion of patriotism.

 

Like "America, the Dream Goes On" or not -- and I don't -- it isn't that.

 

But because its patriotic music, doesn't mean it's good, or that we aren't allowed to criticize it.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Richard said:

Who is the vocalist on A:TDGO?

I've got Peabo Bryson going 'round my head (ouch!).

 

 

Is if me, or does A:TDGO have a musical similarity to a song called THE PLACES YOU FIND LOVE?

 

There is a version out there with John Denver, which is the most known. I don't think there's one "official" performer of the song.

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3 hours ago, Richard said:

Is if me, or does A:TDGO have a musical similarity to a song called THE PLACES YOU FIND LOVE?

 

It reminds me of Yub Nub from the previous year. The bVI-bVII-I cadence with 'celebrate the love' is almost identical to some of the pop chord changes in A:TDGO.

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I still do not get everyone's problem with this piece. I quite enjoy it, really. (Disclosure: I am American, as many of you likely know already.) 

 

The lyrics seem to be taking the most criticism. I have annotated some relevant excerpts (from http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/John_Denver:America,_The_Dream_Goes_On) with how I interpret them. So what follows is an abridged version of the lyrics (for example, it removes repeated paragraphs). 

 

America, America, and the dream goes on! 
America, America, and the dream goes on! 

 

The American dream of liberty and happiness goes on. Pretty simple.

There's a song in the dust of a county road 
On the wind it comes to call 
And it sings in the farms and the fac'try towns 
Where you think there'd be no song at all 

 

Americans have pride in their country and the opportunities that come from the rights we are given. 

And the words are the words that our fathers heard 
As they whistled down the years 
And the name of the song is the name of the dream 
And it's music to our ears 

 

The basic freedoms and values that were central to the founding of America still guide it today. The "American dream" can give us hope. 

And the words that we read on the courthouse walls 
Are the words that make us free 
And the more we remember the way we began 
The closer we get to the best we can be 

 

The founding principle of America of liberty is what allows us to have great freedom today. The more we remember the principles that the Founding Fathers stood for and that the American Revolution was fought for, and the dedication of early Americans to creating a strong society where people can be happy, the better our country will become.

Was there ever a time we forgot it's worth 
All the struggles and the scars 
If we leave to the children a sky full of hope 
And a flag that's filled with stars 

 

Even in difficult times, Americans have remembered that America gives them the opportunity to achieve their dream, or if they can't then maybe they can pass the message on to their children who can fulfill that dream. 


Remember the voice of Jefferson 
And the sound of Thomas Paine 
Lincoln sang at Gettysberg about America 
Listen well to the wind and you can hear 
From Oregon to Maine 

 

The famous past Americans who dedicated their lives to create a society where people right's to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were protected should be remembered. They offer guidance to us today.

Think of Roosevelt and Kennedy 
And of Martin Luther King 
And the way they sang a song about America 
Listen well to the wind, its always there 
And it's asking us to sing 

 

Famous past Americans stood for the values such as liberty that are central to our nation, and we too should stand for those values -- and America itself. I suppose this line could be interpreted as slightly over-nationalistic -- one could say that, because we should have liberty, we should never be asked to be proud to be American.

Though the voices are changing 
The song's the same as it sings from sea to sea 
And as long as the music is strong and clear 
We'll know that tomorrow will always be free 

 

Even though America has been around for a while and many different people have lived here, American values still live on. As long as they continue to live on, tomorrow's citizens will have individual liberty. 

 

So there you go. I find only one paragraph that may be overly nationalistic. Anyone care to offer a rebuttal?

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If someone put a gun to my head and demanded I say two things nice about the Mormons, I'd say they have a great choir and that I prefer their performance of "America, The Dream Goes On" to Williams' own recording.

 

The lyrics? I think like most here, I pay more attention to melodies and music when hearing pieces with vocals and songs in general, so when I listen to the piece I essentially hear  (in the chorus for example) "America, America, la la la la". One thing I do like about the piece is the folksy melody of the verse and also the bridge melody, more so than the chorus of "America, America, la la la la".

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2 hours ago, pete said:

One thing I do like about the piece is the folksy melody of the verse and also the bridge melody, more so than the chorus of "America, America, la la la la".

 

Yes, the "There's a song in the dust of a country road," etc. melody and lyrics combine in a beautiful and poetic way. 

2 hours ago, loert said:

I'm not American and I frickin' love this piece!

 

Someone's talking some sense! :)

7 hours ago, Thor said:

We're not allowed to go into political discussions here, but safe to say, it's an extremely patriotic piece which is so over-the-top, it almost sounds like a parody. I'm curious how the piece came into being.

 

It is also safe to say that you haven't frequented the off-topic section, I presume? ;)

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To be fair to the piece, it's no more jingoistic, than RULE BRITANNIA (which I'll be singing later, by the way, along with a lot of other people), and it has a sweeter melody. In 1985, look where America was, on the world stage: Reaganism ruled, and the heroes were Rocky Balboa, and John J Rambo, and the Ruskies were the bad guys. It all had very clear peramators. 

Look back at those times, now, and it's all a bit of a quaint joke. If anything,

A:TDGO, is a victim of circumstance, but you can't blame the song for that.

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Quickly like this, I see a parallel with Thomas and the king, as they are two good example for me of very bad lyrics/music pairing.

 

Even in 'If We Were In Love'  (Yes, Giorgio), I never find that JW really reached the goal.

 

The music is not the problem, and I don't even talk about the content of the lyrics iself: the songs are simply not "musical", lyrics don't fit on the music.

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1 hour ago, Disco Stu said:

The lyrics are corny.  That's it.

 

That, and the fact that the melody isn't particularly strong. It basically just fluctuates between two chords throughout the whole piece.

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Every few years, some new, young Air Force Band commander/conductor pulls this one out of the library with a gleam in his eye, as if he's part of an elite group of insiders who know about this "hidden treasure." Meanwhile, the rest of the band groans and just gets ready to do it...again. As you can imagine, we've played it to death over the years, along with tons of other patriotic music. I wouldn't be surprised if one of our groups had recorded it.

 

I've heard this tune for years, and I've also had to write my share of this type of stuff...most of our folks call it "schlock": something with relatively little musical value of any kind, but the audiences will eat it up. I don't know if maybe this is what some of you feel (and just can't place your finger on it), but the trick with this tune is that it's just - in a lot of ways - contrived. It feels phony, like someone sat out to write a piece that basically just checked a bunch of things off a list. 

 

And still, like I said, it works and audiences love it. The problem that this one gets, in particular, is that it's a JW work but not really one of his best on many levels. Put this up against "Hymn to the Fallen" and it's just...well, apples and oranges I know, but not really a comparison. Much of JW's patriotic music is sort of a sendup to Copland, and this one is more "Grand Old Opry meets the Boston Pops."  

 

Anyhow, some people love it and some don't, but I think what some of you are feeling, negatively, might be a little bit of that "contrived" idea. 

 

EDIT:

 

I figured so. This was from a CD released in the early 1990s:

 

America, the Dream Goes On

 

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20 hours ago, Thor said:

 

That, and the fact that the melody isn't particularly strong. It basically just fluctuates between two chords throughout the whole piece.

 

Yes, I may disagree with your overall opinion but I do agree that the melody is much more simplistic than what we're used to with JW. It's not until that terrific but brief brass bit at the end (right before the final choral exclamation) that I can truly say, "Now this is some awesome Williams." 

 

That said, I think it's an effective melody in that it fits with the lyrics well (particularly in the verses, where the combination has an almost poetic grace).

 

ATDGO is no, say, Liberty Fanfare, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

 

Quite the contrary.

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I'm no kid, but I'm with Will on this one.  I actually think the "simplistic" melody fits the songwriting assignment here.  You wouldn't want to write long-lined lyrics to the melody of, say, "Mr. Longbottom Flies."  There needs to be some simplicity and even repetition in the melodic lines, or no lyrics would sit neatly on them.  And these lyrics do sit mighty nicely.

 

Also, I've heard my fair share of patriotic songs, but this is the only one to name-drop Thomas Paine.  Points for that.

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19 hours ago, igger6 said:

I'm no kid, but I'm with Will on this one.  I actually think the "simplistic" melody fits the songwriting assignment here.  You wouldn't want to write long-lined lyrics to the melody of, say, "Mr. Longbottom Flies."  There needs to be some simplicity and even repetition in the melodic lines, or no lyrics would sit neatly on them.  And these lyrics do sit mighty nicely.

 

YES!

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I have never been too fond of this piece as its tone which I am sure was meant to be very sincere by the lyricist and the composer becomes just too overbearing and close to a parody to my ears.

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JW really f’d up by not using this as his idée fixe for all of his post-‘85 Americana film scores. What a glorious tapestry he would have wove!

 

Screw Star Wars, that would have been his Magnum Opus!

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4 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

 

An unimaginable 20 trillion USD debt, and that's just the official number. Good luck with that! 

 

Time to borrow more money from China, maybe... So you can buy your own glass house. 😂 

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13 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

I've noticed that internet creeps like you are weirdly addicted to that cry laughing emoji.  Anyway, I'm done bandying words with a witless worm.  Good day!

😂

 

Great answer. Bwahaha. 

 

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