America has some outstanding exports that are supplied to the world. Their farmers are so efficient at producing food that it could be said that they feed the world. And in terms of high technology, the world looks to America to lead the way and they do so very well indeed.
But one of our greatest exports provides the world with dozens of fascinating products that they cannot get enough of. And that is their culture. The American culture, from fashion to movies, to gossip, to the internet, fascinates the world. You can see it in how countries all around the world imitate and develop local versions of American customs and culture,to become as much like Americans as they can.
And of all the different elements of our wonderfully diverse culture, American music stands out as a genuinely unique cultural phenomenon that captivates the world as much as it captivates themselves. There is a certain “sound” that is so uniquely American that it could not have developed in any other nation. That sound is big and bold, full of life and optimism and excitement. That is because the nature of American music is that it reflects the spirit and the heart of what it is to be an American.
Probably,the first type of music that became known as distinctively “American”, is what came out of Broadway. While England and other countries have vibrant theater districts, this thing we came to call the “Broadway show tune” could have come into being nowhere else but in this big sprawling country. Of all those tunes, the lyrics from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma capture that American feeling as well as any…
“We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say
We’re only sayin’
You’re doin’ fine,
The exuberance, the pride and the excitement of that song is as much an expression of what it means to be an American as you can find. But Broadway is not the only place you can find music that is so distinctively American that it could have come into being nowhere else but here. Jazz is an outstanding example of a uniquely American music that has spread around the world. This rich and sultry musical style grew out of the swamps of Louisiana, spread to Chicago and then to the world to become one of the most addicting music styles of its time. And to this day those who become jazz fans are jazz fans for life.
And we cannot leave our discussion of a music style that shows off the greatness of the American Spirit without mentioning Rock and Roll and even Hip Hop. These much maligned styles of music are very American because they are bold, in your face, challenging and not afraid to say what needs to be said. At the same time they are complex, fun, interesting and once you are hooked on them, you are hooked for life. What better way to describe the American spirit. And what better export to the world than a music that gives to mankind the spirit of America.
They say that if you listen to the music of a people, you can genuinely get a feel for the spirit of that people. Sometimes we don’t think of ourselves as “a people” in the same way a country that is largely populated by one ethnic group is. But America is a culture with a rich history, a set of cultural values, a language of its own and a unique view of the world that is totally American. From Bye Bye Miss American Pie, to Oklahoma to the great songs of Jazz, Country and Folk music, the richness of the American culture is fully expressed in her music. And that music is something Americans prize and take joy in every day. And we know our music is truly great because the world cannot get enough of it either.