American Woman

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“American Woman” is the title track of Canadian band The Guess Who‘s 1970 album, American Woman.

The song’s origins took the form of a live jam in Kitchener, Ontario. The group was rushing into the second set and began improvising a rhythm to liven up the crowd. Burton Cummings, the lead singer, began improvising lyrics to fit the music.

The song’s lyrics have been the matter of some debate, often interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics (especially the draft). Jim Kale, the group’s bassist and the song’s co-author, explained his take on the lyrics:

“The popular misconception was that it was a chauvinistic tune, which was anything but the case. The fact was, we came from a very strait-laced, conservative, laid-back country, and all of a sudden, there we were in Chicago, Detroit, New York — all these horrendously large places with their big city problems. After that one particularly grinding tour, it was just a real treat to go home and see the girls we had grown up with. Also, the war was going on, and that was terribly unpopular. We didn’t have a draft system in Canada, and we were grateful for that. A lot of people called in [sic] anti-American, but it wasn’t really. We weren’t anti-anything. John Lennon once said that the meanings of all songs come after they are recorded. Someone else has to interpret them.”

Randy Bachman has claimed that the American woman referred to in the song is in fact the Statue of Liberty, furthering the anti-war theme.

As a single, the track spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 (where it was credited as a double sided hit, along with “No Sugar Tonight”), an unprecedented success for a Canadian band; at the time, it competed with singles such as The Jackson 5′s “ABC” and The Beatles‘s “Let it Be”.

“American Woman” was voted Best Canadian Single of All Time by Chart Magazine in both the 2000 and 2005 polls of readers, music industry professionals, and musicians throughout Canada.

The song has been covered by many, including Lenny Kravitz, Krokus, and the The Butthole Surfers. It was also featured in Sam Mendes’s movie American Beauty. It has most recently been covered by former Guess Who members Cummings and Bachman in a blues rock style. – adapted from Wikipedia

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