Photo credit: @julesdwit.
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The House I Live In
In this edition of Fishko Files, a story about music, politics and the U.S.A.
WNYC Production Credits Associate Producer: Laura Mayer Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister WNYC Newsroom Editor: Karen Frillmann
Conservatism and liberality don't occupy discreet and singular places in any person's mind. There is no such animal as a complete reactionary or a complete free-thinker. So there were aspects to this song that Sinatra could empathize with; that doesn't mean that every other thought in his head was and would remain "leftist", a term, like all other political categories, changes meaning through time and in different contexts.And history has revealed that Sinatra was enraged by the treatment accorded him by J.F.K's father after Sinatra had contributed, what he felt, a lot of his energies into getting elected. In fact, it was after this snub by the Kennedys that Sinatra started visibly altering his political stripes. We can argue whether such a reaction was petty or juvenile but it doesn't change history.
As progressive as that song and movie were you have to notice that the children in the film are all white. I assume the reason is that there were some movie theaters in the south that wouldn't play the film if there were any black faces in 1945. Interestingly the lyricist of the song later adopted the two children of the executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. I think the most amazing cover at this song was when Patti LaBelle sang it to Frank Sinatra on the TV celebration of his 80th birthday. You've got to see it - amazing. Also, there were more lyrics than the familiar ones bloom them up. They are interesting.
In 1945, Frank would have been well aware of the long simmering discrimination aimed at Catholics (called Popists by many) and Italians (immigrants). Plus, his associates in the jazz and pop music fields would have been subjects of discrimination too. So his singing this and the movie makes sense at the time. The fact that he sung it for Nixon and Reagan either shows how dense he was to its meaning, or he did not care at all. I really doubt he understood the ironic aspects of him singing the song in front of them.
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WNYC's Sara Fishko with sound-rich essays on art, culture, music and media -- past and present.
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