A Public History Mixed Tape: Famous Figures

My colleagues have filled the Lakefront Historian with a number of critical reviews of historical fiction films.  And this year there so were many films to choose from: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Lincoln, Django Unchained, and others we didn’t even get to. But another popular medium of public history has recently caught my attention: music. I’ve been keeping a long list of songs about historical events and people. Below are just a few of those focusing on famous figures. They range from past presidents (and there are a LOT of those) to French monarchs in genres as broad as country to indie pop. How such songs both reflect and shape popular memory deserves its own line of inquiry on this blog. (In fact, read Rachel Boyle’s excellent review of Fun.’s music video “Some Nights.”) I hope you enjoy this mixed tape and keep your eyes peeled for more to come.

“Andrew Jackson” by Wallace House
“FDR in Trinidad” by Ry Cooder
“Hurricane” by Bob Dylan
“Abe Lincoln” by Best Friends Forever
“James K. Polk” by They Might Be Giants
“Alexander Graham Bell” by Sweet
“Killer Queen” by Queen
“Louis Quatorze” by Bow Wow Wow
“Eisenhower is the Father” by Best Friends Forever
“Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel
“Sacré Charlemagne” by France Gall
“Ballad of Ira Hayes” by Johnny Cash
“Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” by Simon & Garfunkel
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel (Sorry, I had to sneak this in.)

What are your favorite songs about historical figures and people(s)?


“I Don’t Know What I Stand For Anymore”: Fun., Postmodern Angst, and Civil War Memory

The casual radio listener cannot avoid the chart topping hit “Some Nights” by the band Fun.  As with their other recent hit, “We Are Young,” Fun. produces upbeat tempos and soaring harmonies that belie darker lyrics about the emptiness and purposelessness of life.  By applying the postmodern undertones of “Some Nights” to a music video dominated by Civil War imagery, Fun. meaningfully reflects and contributes to popular memory of the Civil War.

Continue reading ““I Don’t Know What I Stand For Anymore”: Fun., Postmodern Angst, and Civil War Memory”

Around the Web (July 2012)

Periodically, a Lakefront Historian contributor surveys recent public history-related news that emerges on the Internet. In this installment of “Around the Web,” Anne E. Cullen highlights new digital collections and blogs, museum reviews, and pop culture happenings that exemplify public history online.  Follow The Lakefront Historian on Twitter (@LakefrontHist) for news updates as they happen.

LFH BlogImage source

  • Since we’re all about mythical figures re-examined through the lens of feature films here on the Lakefront Historian (read our recent roundtable reviews of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), we couldn’t help but notice another historical heavy-weight recently memorialized at the box office: Marie Antoinette. Farewell, My Queen, based on the award-winning novel Les Adieux à la Reine by Chantal Thomas,  hit theaters this July 13th. Watch the trailer here.
  • Threadbared’s review of the Tattered and Torn: On the Road to Deaccession exhibit on NYC’s Governor’s Island explores historical value, material culture, and costume collections.
  • Speaking of fashion and public history, in July the Chicago History Museum debuted an online digital collection showcasing their costume collection.  With over 50,000 pieces from the mid-18th century to the present, CHM’s collection is the second most expansive fashion collection after that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Another new online collection? Don’t forget to check out the Grateful Dead Archive Online which includes over 45,000 digitized items from the library at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
  • The Chicago History Museum commemorated the 1919 Chicago Race Riot with a blog post built around Jun Fujita’s photographs of the tragic violence.
  • Loyola Chicago’s own Women and Leadership Archives recently launched a new tumblr. The blog features fun and interesting photographs from WLA’s collections and also highlights other online content related to women and history.  Check out the tumblr here.
  • The National Archives is recognizing the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with a web research page highlighting Presidential records related to people with disabilities throughout US history.
  • And in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, be sure to watch this amusing video that uncovers the secret history of the City of London.