My Country Used to Be – Music and Lyrics by Dave Frishberg

posted in: Non Parody, Social Commentary | 0

An incredibly profound and engaging work by Dave Frishberg. Dave Frishberg appeared as a guest on Minnesota Public Radio’s Morning Show, back on 29-Sept-2004 and performed this song, where I first heard it. It was newly brought to my attention on Sept 19, 2019 by Greg Trafidlo, a Parody Project contributor.


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Dave Frishberg

Once I pledged allegiance to the flag of the good old USA
And to the values for which it stood:
The home, the family, the neighborhood,
‘Cause while it lasted, well, it sure felt good.
While it lasted, it sure felt good.

Now I pledge allegiance under God to the mighty corporations,
To the airport search, to the secret police,
To the wiretaps, to the war on peace,
As America marches into action
With our weapons of mass distraction.

My country used to be
Emblem of democracy,
Freedom unfurled.
Once we were hailed and cheered,
Honored, world-revered,
Now we’re despised and feared,
Alone against the world.

My country used to be
Land of productivity.
We stocked the store.
Now we make paper trails,
Profits from secret sales,
And then when all else fails,
We concoct a war.

My country used to be
Land of opportunity,
Second to none.
My country once was proud.
We stood above the crowd.
No need to shout out loud,
“We’re number one!”

I hope my children live to see
A land like my country used to be.


David L. “Dave” Frishberg (born March 23, 1933) is an American jazz pianist, vocalist, composer, and lyricist born in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His songs have been performed by Blossom Dearie, Rosemary Clooney, Shirley Horn, Anita O’Day, Michael Feinstein, Irene Kral, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, John Pizzarelli and Mel Tormé.

Frishberg wrote the music and lyrics for “I’m Just a Bill”, the song about the forlorn legislative writ in the ABC Schoolhouse Rock! series, which was later transformed into the popular revue Schoolhouse Rock Live. For Schoolhouse Rock! he also wrote and performed “Walkin’ on Wall Street”, a song that describes how the stock market works, and “$7.50 Once a Week”, a song about saving money and balancing a budget.

He wrote “Van Lingle Mungo”, a novelty song consisting solely of the names of Major League Baseball players.

Frishberg resisted learning classical piano as a boy, developing an interest in blues and boogie-woogie by listening to recordings by Pete Johnson and Jay McShann. As a teenager he played in the house band at the Flame in St. Paul where Art Tatum, Billie Holiday, and Johnny Hodges appeared. After graduating from the University of Minnesota as a journalism major in 1955, Frishberg spent two years in the Air Force.

In 1957, Frishberg moved to New York City, where he played solo piano at the Duplex in Greenwich Village. He first became known for his work with Carmen McRae, Ben Webster, Gene Krupa, Bud Freeman, Eddie Condon, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims. Later he was celebrated for writing and performing his own, frequently humorous, songs, including favorites “I’m Hip” (lyrics only, in collaboration with Bob Dorough),[4] “Blizzard of Lies”,[5] “My Attorney Bernie” (his most famous),[6] “Do You Miss New York”, “Peel Me a Grape”, “Quality Time”, “Slappin’ the Cakes on Me”, “I Want To Be A Sideman”, and “Van Lingle Mungo”, whose lyrics consist entirely of the names of old-time baseball players.

In 1971, Frishberg moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a studio musician, and where he also recorded his first albums. In 1986, he moved to Portland, Oregon.

Frishberg cites songwriter Frank Loesser as an influence,[9] and has said that Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, along with Willie Nelson’s “Crazy”, are songs he wished he had written. Like Loesser before him, Frishberg has also worked strictly as a lyricist, collaborating with composers Johnny Mandel, Alan Broadbent, Al Cohn, Blossom Dearie, David Shire, Julius Wechter, Dan Barrett, Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Dorough, Gerry Mulligan, and Johnny Hodges.

He was the co-recipient of the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song in 1981, having written the lyric to “Baby Talk” from the Burt Reynolds comedy film Paternity.

Frishberg is a longtime baseball fan, and has been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) since 1984. In addition to “Van Lingle Mungo”, he also wrote “Matty”, a tribute to an early 20th century pitching great, which was included along with “Play Ball” and several other songs with baseball references, on the 1994 CD Quality Time.

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