Simon Calder: American songs define every era
Friday 19 October 2012
Born in the USA? Neither was I. But, like the average Brit, I feel Bruce Springsteen is part of a shared heritage – and, even though I was brought up in Sussex, I sense an affinity with blue-collar New Jersey.
You tell me when you were a teenager, and I will calibrate the soundtrack to your early passions – and where the lyrics may steer you. Woody Guthrie's pan-American "This Land is Your Land" unified the nation in the 1940s, "from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters". By the 1960s, Chuck Berry was prescribing a pair of transcontinental itineraries to California with "Route 66" and "Promised Land", while the golden beaches of the Golden State were harmoniously charted by the Beach Boys. REM put Athens, Georgia on the Eighties traveller's wish-list, while Nirvana put Seattle's teen spirit on the map in the Nineties.
Besides the soundtrack to our lives, America has provided us with the photo album and the film script. The intense colours of the Grand Canyon, the chiselled contours of Mount Rushmore and the clapboard cuteness of a New England village cried out for Kodachrome and Technicolor to be perfected.
Most of all, the US is a land of stories intricately spun by great writers such as Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Annie Proulx. Their human tales are set against those quintessentially American backdrops.
Last weekend's long-awaited release of the film version of Jack Kerouac's On The Road was auspicious. For the next eight weeks, the Independent Traveller is celebrating our love affair with the USA, with stories intended to inspire your own journey. Meet you on E Street.
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