Random House EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Kate Medina says, “This book was lit from within, in a special way, from the start, growing, as it did, out of the friendship between two neighbors in Nashville who share a love of America and of history, and a belief in the power of song to inspire, lead, and unite us. It was for me a joy to work with them, to read Jon’s beautiful and concise history of eras in America, and Tim’s reflections on music and life. It was fun, and inspiring, for Erica Gonzalez and me, to experience how the great people at Random House work together to produce and publish a beautiful and important book. “
McGraw recalls, “Reading Jon’s last book, THE SOUL OF AMERICA, I got to thinking about how music really marks times in people’s lives, and not necessarily inflection points or seminal moments in people’s lives, but mundane, everyday moments a song can put you back into. And I got to thinking, if music can do that on an individual basis, what can it do on sort of a mass consciousness basis? [What impact can music have on understanding] the history of our country?”
Meacham says, “My hope is that people will read this [book] and realize two things. One is the past was not as simple as they might’ve thought. And there’s a lot more capacity and reason to hope about the future because you can hear the tension and the tumult of the past in the music that shaped us. There was not this world that was ‘once upon a time,’ in some perfect kingdom, and there was one election or one event and then everything got difficult.”
“Jon always says, ‘What we have to do is not romanticize history in a lot of ways, and not think that it was all glorious.’” McGraw says, “We have to look at it square in the eye and see what we can do to improve and go forward… We’re going to have setbacks, and we’re going to make wrong decisions, but we’re going to move forward, if we keep a spirit of hope about us, and a spirit of looking to the future.”
The SONGS OF AMERICA book tour included both talk and music, with events in New York, NY; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Charlotte, NC; and Raleigh, NC.
According to Meacham, “This is not going to be your typical book thing that’s over in a week. We’re hoping to keep doing these shows, keep adding to [the project], because the argument is important and if we’re right that music is unifying and not dividing, we’re going to need a lot more of this.”
SONGS OF AMERICA explores both famous songs and lesser-known ones, expanding our understanding of the scope of American music and lending deeper meaning to the historical context of such songs as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” “God Bless America,” “Over There,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” As Quincy Jones says, Meacham and McGraw have “convened a concert in SONGS OF AMERICA,” one that reminds us of who we are, where we’ve been, and what we, at our best, can be.