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Correction to This Article
A Jan. 22 Style article about "People Got to Be Free," a 1968 song by the Rascals, referred incorrectly to the date of the death of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The senator was assassinated in June of that year.
Essay

Sweet Lyrics of Liberty

When the President Spoke, the Rascals Already Knew the Tune

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 22, 2005; Page C01

It's probably just one of those silly coincidences, but pop music aficionados of a certain age can't help wondering: Was President Bush's ringing inaugural address informed by the seminal political theories of . . . the Rascals?

You laugh. Or maybe you're just perplexed. For the uninitiated, the Rascals were a popular rock group of the 1960s. They had several hits, most of which are now staples of oldies radio and some of which have become (in the ultimate pop culture validation) commercial jingles for this or that product. Among the group's No. 1 songs was a lively, blue-eyed soul number called "People Got to Be Free."


Bush: "Eventually the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul." (Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

What's remarkable about this graying musical artifact is how its lyrics parallel the themes of Bush's 21-minute address Thursday. Listen:

Rascals: "All the world over, so easy to see / People everywhere just wanna be free / Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be / Deep in the valley, people got to be free."

Bush: "There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom."

Rascals: "You should see what a lovely, lovely world this'd be / [If] everyone learned to live together, ah-hah-unh."

Bush: "We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

(Bush left out the ah-hah-unh, although he is believed to have used the expression in other public forums.)

Rascals: "If there's a man who is down and needs a helpin' hand / All it takes is you to understand and to pull him through."

Bush: "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal, instead, is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way."

Rascals: "Seems to me we got to solve it individually . . . / And I'll do unto you what you do to me."

Bush: "Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love."

Rascals: "Shout it from the mountain on out to the sea / No two ways about it, people have to be free / Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be / Nat'ral situation for a man to be free."

Bush: "Eventually the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery."


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