Friday, July 2, 2010

Let's Say it with Firecrackers (and Vuvuzelas)

The annual ritual of the long weekend of our national birth kicks off tomorrow with Brazil vs. The Netherlands. I’ll be tweeting back down at the Paley Center. I guess I’m rooting for Brazil, football powerhouse that it is. And because I found this site that translates your name for your jersey if you played for them. (Of course the patriotic bones in my body have to agree with the Post, after our loss to Ghana last Saturday.)

From there it’s off to a concert at Lincoln Center where West Point’s US Military Academy Band joins the NY Phil under the direction of Lt. Col. Timothy J. Holtan. I love the precision and élan of a military band, and they’re playing Gershwin, Gould (Morton, not Glenn!) and Sousa, three strands of the DNA of American music.

Celebrating American music is always easy. As for the birthday itself, it’s hard this year. There’s so much bad news from every angle, from the unmitigated, unstoppable flow of oil in the gulf to our stagnation in Afghanistan, and people are still suffering from the economy collapse of 2008, the result of horrific corporate greed and stupidity.

But when the going gets tough, Americans get tougher. That’s been our history, that’s also in our DNA. So is a great deal of talent, like this gentleman, the child of immigrants from Linz Austria and East Prussia/Alsace, generally considered the greatest dancer of all time.

In Holiday Inn he dances with firecrackers: it’s one of the great imaginative scenes in film history.

The music is an instrumental medley of songs Irving Berlin wrote for Independence Day in the movie, including "I'm singing a song of freedom," which pretty much sums up what it's all about.

I'm singing a song of freedom, For all people who cry out to be free

Free to sail the seven seas, Free to worship as we please, If the birds up in the trees can be free, Why can't we?

I'm bringing a song of freedom, To all people wherever they may be

Free to speak and free to hear, Free from want and free from fear, Sons of freedom far and near who agree, Sing with me, That all God's children shall be free

Happy Birthday America.