If I asked you who was the greatest punkrocker(s) to ever live I might hear Iggy Pop, Sid Vicious, the Ramones, the Clash or more modern examples like Green Day. But if I asked who the first punkrocker was, who would you say? I’m guessing that a 50 year old white US President isn’t what came to mind, but Abraham Lincoln is quite possibly the first punkrocker around. A passionate lawyer with powerful and lyrical speeches, Lincoln job was to strike at the hearts of his listener’s emotions and logic over controversial topics such as slavery. His speeches reached heights of grandiosity that we hear in punk rock music and the melodrama of his life made him a legend.
Take a look at this speech Lincoln game to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield in 1838:
In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only to transmit these — the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation — to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Lincoln reaches a fever-pitch in this excerpt like he’s wailing power chords on his Gibson and when we look at his personal demeanor we see a tall, thin, bearded man, who wears black and is struggling with depression. Not to mention he is dealing with a mad wife and a country tearing at the seams. Titus Andronicus, a New Jersey-based band who’s lastest album The Monitor, named after the civil-war era ship, seems to agree: The Monitor is a punk rock reimagining of the Civil War using excerpts from Lincoln to bind the individual songs together into a war-torn union we call an album.
The first time I heard this song I almost jumped out of my seat and started headbanging. If you did the same, I strongly recommend that you listen to the entire album and read more speeches from Lincoln. They make a perfect punk rock band.
Titus Andronicus is the best punk rock band today. That’s right I said it. Dare to argue, then tweet @MidwestBeer to challenge me.