John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

“Sail Away”

Randy Newman’s classic song would be perfect for the Super Bowl’s half-time show.

By - Jan 30th, 2015 02:19 pm
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Randy Newman - Sail Away

Randy Newman – Sail Away

As America prepares for its most important and universally celebrated holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, advertisers will be the ones with the deepest and most rapturous religious feelings. I expect them to really get into the spirit, for them it is Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July rolled into one.

Don’t get me wrong, my stomach flipped when our team went south at the last possible moment two weeks ago. It’ll take a while to get over that one. Even so, no Super boycott in Siegerland. I enjoy football in general and somebody has to beat New England and that smug Tom Brady.

I also look forward to all the new, $4 million-for-a-half-minute ads. In this best and worst of all possible days there are chuckles to be had, so I’ll temporarily suspend my aversion to the evil marketing juggernaut that has seeped into every crevice of our existence.

But one thing I can’t even pretend to warm up to is the divas, female and male, who destroy our national anthem. They put so much effort into avoiding the melody and making it all about themselves and their olympian pipes, that I almost feel sorry for this tattered rag of a song…. almost. If you believe America is the sum of all its wars and love the bombast that bursts in mid air every time they roll this out, maybe the song is for you. I’ll stick with America The Beautiful as sung by Ray Charles, possibly the best advertisement our country has ever had.

Ray’s people, who couldn’t vote when the official anthem was written, arrived here under the worst circumstances. As slaves transported from Africa, stripped of their possessions, separated from their families and hauled like livestock to the land of the free, they had to build something they were’t even allowed to enjoy.

In one of his most daring acts of artistry, Randy Newman dove into that topic headfirst. He had long ago decided being likable was less important than telling a good story. Inhabiting some truly creepy characters, he gave up a lot, but he probably wasn’t courting the kind of fans who think Spinal Tap was a real band. That is one of many reasons we will never see Newman in a Super Bowl half time show.

In Sail Away, a song many would call his best, he envisions the captain of a slave ship delivering his super-sales pitch to the barefoot innocents on some idyllic African shore. Old Ran understands jingles are constructed with lots of upbeat messages, and that they are later exposed as hollowed out lies. The captain is a smooth character; apparently he has spent some time on Madison Avenue. And his pitch is pitch perfect:

Sail Away

In America you’ll get food to eat
Won’t have to run through the jungle
And scuff up your feet
You’ll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
It’s great to be an American

Ain’t no lions or tigers
Ain’t no mamba snake
Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
Everybody is as happy as a man can be
Climb aboard, little wog
Sail away with me

Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

In America every man is free
To take care of his home and his family
You’ll be as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree
You’re all gonna be an American

Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

©  Randy Newman, Randy Newman Music, WB Music Corp.

Scuffed up feet, a big problem in Africa, apparently. Who wouldn’t want to sing about Jesus and drink wine all day? I would have been pushing old ladies out of the way to get on that gang plank.

The glorious mess we call our country will probably be at war with itself till the sun swallows us up. We love to distract ourselves with flashy displays and wardrobe malfunctions. It beats thinking. Do you think it might have a little to do with our history?

Prediction: Seahawks 56, Patriots 12.

0 thoughts on “Sieger on Songs: “Sail Away””

  1. Anonymous says:

    John,
    I would love to see the Sea Hawks take the Patriots to the wall. How serious you are, I don’t know. Artists are quirky.
    The National Anthem is played or sung at every sporting event in the United States. I agree, that song is misinterpreted in almost all occasions. My son is involved in NASCAR, not totally understood in the GreatLake States. I watch the races almost every Saturday and Sunday. On race day the Anthem is tortured, beaten, misspoke and sometimes, well done. You, of all people, know about Cover Bands. Their intentions are true. Um, the act? Can I get a refund? Ray Charles was a gifted individual. He had issues. He was good. Lilly saw Paul McCartney in Greensboro several months ago. Seventy some years old. Played three hours straight, no break. What would you say if he sang the National Anthem in his own style? He’s a Brit. Sometimes folks throw out ” have you looked in the mirror lately ” I am not saying that is you. I am saying that singers/artist “hear” in a different vibe. Good, Bad? Three minutes of fame. It is what it is. I guess if we could “TBT ” we’ed be listening to the original on a waxed roll or a napkin, scratched out, in a smokey, liquor smelling, smoke filled pub. God Bless America…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just arranged to cancel Katy Perry, and have this read at halftime instead

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