Not only was I expected to sing some American songs, but I needed to give the some cultural context for the audience. Some highlights from the concert program notes:
“Heartbreak Hotel,” by Elvis Presley – aka “The King.” This is a classic blues song about loneliness. A man sings that his woman left him: “Since my baby left me…” and now he lives in a metaphorical place called “Heartbreak Hotel.” Everyone who lives in this place has the “blues.” Elvis “feels so lonely, so lonely I could die.”
“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” by Duke Ellington. One of the most famous songs in jazz music. This a jazz song about jazz rhythm. Having a “swing” rhythm is the most important thing in Jazz. The “doo wah doo wah” line is an example of the jazz singing tradition of “scatting” where the singer makes up meaningless sounds to make the voice sound like a musical instrument.
“Free bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, America’s greatest band of “southern rock”—a fusion of country music and rock and roll. “Free Bird” is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most famous work—a classic American composition about freedom. In the song, the singer explains to his woman that he must leave her and travel the world. The song is a simple metaphor about being like a bird who flies all over the place – the bird has no reason to fly or any place in particular it needs to go, rather it is simply in the bird’s nature to fly and nothing will ever change the bird.