The music industry doesn't commemorate Presidents' Day, but maybe it should. Presidents have been key part of pop culture for the past 50 years. Two former Presidents, Jimmy Carter
and Bill Clinton
, and one future President, Barack Obama
, have won Grammys for Best Spoken Word Recording.
Collections of speeches by Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy also won Grammys in that category, though those former Presidents (who had both died by the time the albums were released) weren't awarded posthumous Grammys.
Vaughn Meader's The First Family
, which gently tweaked President Kennedy
and his family, was the #1 album on Billboard's
pop album chart for 12 weeks from December 1962 to March 1963. On May 15, 1963, it won Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Comedy Album. A little more than six months later, on Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Record companies flooded the market with Kennedy memorial albums as Americans grieved the first President to die in office since Franklin Roosevelt
. Two JFK albums appeared on the chart dated Dec. 28, 1963: That Was The Week That Was
(a recording of a BBC tribute that aired the day after the assassination) and The Presidential Years 1960-1963
. Both albums made the top 10 in February 1964. That Was The Week That Was
won a Grammy as Best Spoken Word Album of 1964 (under its alternate title, BBC Tribute To John F. Kennedy
Eight more JFK albums made the chart during the next two years. They included A Memorial Album
(a radio broadcast on WMCA in New York from the day of the assassination), The Kennedy Wit
(narrated by news anchor David Brinkley
, and including an introduction by former Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson
) and the two-disc John Fitzgerald Kennedy...As We Remember Him
(narrated by newsman Charles Kuralt
). The latter album won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album of 1965.
Kennedy achieved a couple of pop culture milestones. He was the first President or former President to appear on the Billboard
album chart. And he was the first President or former President to receive a Grammy nomination. (The Kennedy Wit
was nominated as Best Spoken Word Album of 1964, but lost to That Was The Week That Was
In 1968, Kennedy-Nixon, the Great Debates 1960 received a Grammy nomination as Best Spoken Word Recording. In 1990, John F. Kennedy Jr. was nominated in the same category for reading his father's book, Profiles In Courage.
Oliver Stone's JFK received an Oscar nomination as Best Picture of 1991.
, who followed Kennedy into the White House, couldn't match JFK as a pop culture figure, though a comedy album, Welcome To The LBJ Ranch!
, reached #3 on Billboard's
chart in December 1965. It also received a Grammy nomination as Best Comedy Performance.
The album featured the actual recorded voices of President Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, as well as such top political figures of the era as former President Dwight Eisenhower, former Vice President Richard Nixon, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, and U.S. Senators Barry Goldwater, Everett Dirksen and Robert F. Kennedy.
Richard Nixon, who became President in 1969, provided fodder for comedians both before, and especially during, the Watergate scandal, which became a national obsession in 1973. Impressionist David Frye had four chart albums in which he tweaked the President. Two of them, I Am The President and Richard Nixon: A Fantasy, received Grammy nominations for Best Comedy Recording. (The others were Radio Free Nixon and Richard Nixon Superstar.)
Two other satirical albums about Nixon were nominated for Best Comedy Recording: Orson Welles' The Begatting of the President
in 1970 and the National Lampoon
comedy troupe's The Missing White House Tapes
in 1974. Both of these albums also made the Billboard
Three Watergate-related albums received Grammy nominations for Best Spoken Word Recording. In 1974, Sen. Sam Ervin
(who chaired the Senate Select Committee that investigated Watergate) was nominated for the homespun Senator Sam At Home
. Also nominated that year: the Watergate testimony of former White House counsel John W. Dean III
. In 1978, Nixon and interviewer David Frost
were nominated for The Nixon Interviews with David Frost
In September 1973, Nixon became the first President to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone
. He appeared again in January 1974 and September 1974, when the magazine trumpeted his resignation with a two-word headline, "The Quitter." (In June 1971, a year before the Watergate break-in, his daughter Tricia Nixon
appeared on the cover.)
Anthony Hopkins and Frank Langella received Oscar nominations for Best Actor for playing Nixon in, respectively, Oliver Stone's Nixon (1995) and Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon (2008). The latter film was also nominated for Best Picture.
, who finished out Nixon's second term, didn't register strongly in pop culture, apart from Chevy Chase's
impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live
. He never appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone
, though son Jack Ford
did in July 1976.
Politically-themed comedy albums started to fade around the time that SNL went on the air in October 1975. For immediacy and topicality, comedy albums simply couldn't compete with a TV sketch that could be written or revised until just hours before airtime.
In June 1976, Jimmy Carter
became the first future President to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone
. He was elected five months later. (He didn't appear on the cover during his presidency, which reflected a lack of enthusiasm on the part of his base that contributed to his loss to Ronald Reagan
in 1980.) More than 25 years after leaving office, Carter won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording for 2006's Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis
In 1982, 20 years after the original The First Family
album, comedian Rich Little
tweaked President Reagan and his family on The First Family Rides Again
. Vaughn Meader
, who had recorded the original album, participated, as did Michael Richards
, who went on to fame on Seinfeld
, Shelley Hack
, Jenilee Harrison
and Melanie Chartoff
George H.W. Bush didn't ring the pop-culture bell much beyond Dana Carvey's impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live.
was the biggest rock star President since JFK. He was the first President to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone
both before and during his Presidency. In 2005, Clinton became the first former President to win a Grammy. He took the award for the audio version of his 2004 autobiography My Life
That made the Clintons the only Presidential couple with his-and-hers Grammys. Hillary Rodham Clinton
had won for the 1996 audio version of her best-seller It Takes A Village
. She accepted the award in person at Madison Square Garden in the pre-telecast portion of the proceedings on Feb. 26, 1997. (Celine Dion
was the night's other big winner.)
George W. Bush
, like his father, was not a pop culture hit. He made the cover of Rolling
Stone three times, though he probably didn't frame the covers. "The Worst President In History?" was the question posed on his first Rolling Stone
cover in May 2006.
is the first President to win a Grammy (for Best Spoken Word Recording) before taking the office. In fact, he won two Grammys before winning the White House in 2008. He scored with 2005's Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance
and 2007's The Audacity Of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream
Obama has already appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone
five times, which is a record for a President. He appeared on the cover three times before taking the oath (which is also a record) and has appeared twice since becoming President.
- Best Spoken Word Recording