American Music and the Music of America


David Tucker

David Tucker, my sometimes colleague out at the Ashbrook Center, is one of America’s underrated writers and thinkers, chiefly because he toils away most of the time out of view on the arcana of counter-terrorism and intelligence work at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, such as can be seen in his book Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict, or United States Special Operations Forces.

But few people write as perceptively and poetically about American culture and religion than Tucker.  (He was one of the hidden forces behind the Constitutional Conversation: Letters from an Ohio Farmer project to which I contributed a few essays.)  And so don’t miss his new essay “Music and Civic Life in America,” just out from AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, co-written with his son Nathan Tucker.  Oh, did I mention that David and Nathan also play in their own quite good blues band in the Monterey area?  So they know more than a bit about this subject from the inside.  Anyway, here’s one brief sample:

Historically, music has filled its most prominent civic role in war, an activity that requires, even in a liberal democracy, the subordination of the private to the public. “Yankee Doodle” and William Billings’s “Chester,” a rousing defiance of tyranny and invocation of a liberating God, were popular during the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War, “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Dixie,” and, of course, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” inspired the warring sides. George M. Cohan’s “Over There” encouraged Americans heading to Europe to fight in World War I.

I’d be tempted to induct David into the Power Line 100 Best Professors list, but given his subject matter, he’d probably have to kill me.


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