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George Washington's 10 Favorite Songs

On his 286th birthday, the nation's first president reveals the 10 songs that move him most, from Cowboy Junkies to the Sex Pistols.

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Feb. 22 marks my 286th birthday, and let me just say, fuck Alexander Hamilton. When that guy was alive, I’m telling you no one cared about his taste in music. He was always listening to German hymns or some other nonsense, and wouldn’t shut up about harpsichords even way after they were played out. Meanwhile we were all like, dude, the piano is what everyone’s into now. Get a clue! But nowadays, to hear his name in New York, you’d think the man invented music. Most people under the age of 110 don’t even realize he wasn’t a rapper at all.

Me, I’m a aesthete, a true lover of culture. I’m a sick dancer, you know. And I’m getting a little tired of all this fawning over Hamilton—a man I basically created in my laboratory of genius, by the way—especially since the best line about me in his stupid “musical” is ripped off directly from Gilbert & Sullivan. That’s the thanks I get. To even things out a little, I thought I’d let my fellow Americans in on just what makes old George—the father of our country—tick. How does that sound? Good to you? Who cares. Here’s what I’ve got on my phone right now.

10. “Down Across the Delaware,” James McMurtry
Man, sometimes you just want to get the hell out of New Jersey, amirite? I feel like I could sue McMurtry for stealing my story in this song: “I’ll mend my wounds and wait out the winter / down across the Delaware / And I’ll see you in the spring / When the chill don’t cut so deep / I’ll be back around to give this town another crack at me.” That’s basically what I was screaming that whole awful boat ride. But man it’s some mighty fine pickin’ and singin’.

9. “Cherry Tree,” 10,000 Maniacs
I’ve always had a little trouble with cherry trees as metaphors. In fact metaphors generally give me a hard time. This song by the 10,000 Maniacs (aka the British at Valley Forge) is about someone struggling with illiteracy, although cherry trees are never actually mentioned in the lyrics. I can relate, as I never even learned Greek or Latin.

8. “Peaches,” The Presidents of the United States of America
This is the title they once gave to me. Not Peaches, the other one. I was the first. I just want to make that clear. Now apparently these morons have it. Honestly it’s a little galling to see how far our standards have fallen. On the other hand, I do love eating peaches. Jefferson had a tree in his yard.

7. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gil Scott-Heron
This seems like a no-brainer to me. If we’d televised it at Boston, I wouldn’t be here right now trying to narrow down my passion for flutes and manifestos to just 10 songs. They’ll televise anything now. Ask Nixon.

6. “A Horse in the Country,” Cowboy Junkies
You might not know this, but I can ride a mean horse. And mean horses are the hardest to ride. A lot of the statues you’ll see of me, I’m riding a horse. Love riding horses. Also I love this Cowboy Junkies song because, it’s like, when life sucks and is boring, it’s great to have a horse to ride.

5. “Red Headed Stranger,” Willie Nelson
Something else you might not know about me: I’m a natural ginger. Yes it’s true. I powder my hair white to give it that distinguished look, helped me rise through the ranks a little faster. Never wore a wig. Wigs suck. So do Whigs. I love when Willie sings “don’t cross him, don’t boss him…” That’s just like me!

4. “Martha My Dear,” The Beatles
Ah, my dearest Martha. My inspiration indeed. You know, when I married her I became like the fourth-richest guy in Virginia. Which was great for my dating life. One of Paul’s finest compositions!

3. “My Old Virginia Home,” The Carter Family
For my money, the purest song of devotion to my home state—a simple tale of a lonely lad wandering back to Virginia, never to roam again. I could go on all day about the Cavalier State, but I don’t want to jinx them in the tournament.

2. “Anarchy in the UK,” The Sex Pistols
I don’t know much about this band; they have great teeth, for one thing. But I just like any song that messes with the British. I mean, fuck those guys. (And the French, for that matter. And Hamilton.) Frankly I can’t believe kingdoms are even still a thing.

1. “Washington D.C.,” Magnetic Fields
“W-A-S-H-I-N-G…T-O-N, baby, D.C.” The city so nice they named it once—for me! You may quibble with this bit of egotism. “George,” you say, “it’s not even about how great the city is. It’s just that the singer’s lover lives there.” Okay, this song almost goes out of its way to belittle Washington, D.C. But here’s the rub: Without my scrotal fortitude, there’s no city, no love, no song—nothing. I made this, see? Ever been to the great city of Hamilton? That’s what I thought.

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