Songs for the Taking 2
On Graham Parker and the Rumour's "Stick to Me"
During much of the Obama administration I fantasized that the president would find out that someone, some late-night DJ (do they even exist still?) or a covers band in some friendly, scruffy rock ‘n’ roll bar, had played Graham Parker’s “Stick to Me” and dedicated it to him.
No popular president has ever experienced the level of open contempt and questions of his legitimacy that Obama did. I can’t locate the exact quote, but in Esquire, the fine political columnist Charles P. Pierce wrote that Obama was the first president in his lifetime to serve almost as if at the pleasure of the opposition. Meaning that rather than being treated as the clear winner of two presidential elections, he was treated as if he were president only because his white, Republican opponents allowed him to be, as a figurehead whose power they would obstruct and deny.
As president, Obama was hamstrung by his faith in rationalism, which led him to the disastrous conclusion that he could deal reasonably with unreasonable people; and by the racist expectation of modesty foisted on him by dint of being both the smartest guy in the room and Black. This frustration found its outlet in Key & Peele—which provided pretty much the smartest and most nuanced racial commentary of the Obama years—in the sketches in which Keegan Michael Key appeared as Luther, the “rage translator” for Jordan Peele’s sober, even-tempered Obama. Luther, his eyes burning with hatred and pure disbelief at the bullshit he was expected to swallow was Obama unleashed, just as Jamie Foxx in the underrated and very satisfying action movie White House Down was Obama as action hero, giving his opponents the beatdown they so richly deserved.
Listening now to “Stick to Me,” I hear Graham Parker as an early applicant for the job of Obama’s rage translator. Only here it’s no joke.