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Soundtrack for an impeachment

Our constitutional crisis set to a beat

The Amazing Nina SimoneRoxbury International Film Festival

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in September that the House would launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, two words immediately popped into my head. “Finally!” came first.

And the second was “Playlist!”

I’ve always made playlists for friends’ weddings, birthdays, and parties. I celebrate July 4 with Curtis Mayfield’s “Miss Black America,” and Linda Ronstadt’s “Back in the U.S.A." Memories stirred by my mother’s favorite songs would lift the fog of Alzheimer’s as she talked about Ruth Brown wailing “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” or Sam Cooke’s exhilarating “Tennessee Waltz."

As one does, I took to Twitter asking what should be included on an impeachment playlist. Many of the choices aren’t overtly political, but their titles alone capture a certain exultant feeling, like CeCe Peniston’s “Finally." Others, like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Heaven 17′s “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang,” wear their ideology on their sleeves. Some, such as Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin'," reference the ghosts of impeachment inquiries past.

So whether it’s the first, second, or third impeachment hearings of your lifetime, here’s a soundtrack to set our catastrophic constitutional crisis to a beat.


“Impeach the President,” The Honey Drippers

Remarkably, this song was written about former President Nixon, not the current White House occupant. It was released in 1973 as the Watergate hearings were heating up — and re-released in 2017.

Key lyric: “Behind the walls of the White House

There’s a lot of things that we don’t know about

Behind the walls of the White House

There’s a lot of things that we should know about.”

“I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” Ella Fitzgerald

Written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the 1949 musical "South Pacific,” it’s an oft-recorded standard about the politics of failed love, and moving on.


Key lyric: "Wash him out, dry him out

Push him out, fly him out

Cancel him and let him go!"

“Go to Hell,” Nina Simone

Oh, how Miss Simone would have savaged this ugly American moment. She often used music as a weapon of protest. Though not a political song, its words could have been directed toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Key Lyric: "Now if your mind lies in the Devil’s workshop

And evil-doing’s your thrill

And trouble and mischief is all you live for

You know darn well

That you’ll go to hell"

“Idiot Wind,” Bob Dylan

This one’s from the 1970s — the same decade when the Justice Department sued Trump Management for housing discrimination. (Yes, kids, once the Justice Department cared about justice. Also, Trump was always racist.)

Key lyric: "Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth

Blowing down the backroads heading south

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth

You’re an idiot, babe,

It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe."

“All You Fascists," Billy Bragg and Wilco

We could use a new all-star “We are the World”-style version of Woody Guthrie’s timeless screed against Nazis, the Klan, and racial injustice.

Key lyric: "I’m going to tell all you fascists, you may be surprised

People all over this world are getting organized

You’re bound to lose, you fascists are bound to lose"


“Irreplaceable,” Beyonce

Hit the bricks. Get lost. Don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good Lord split ya. A quintessential kiss-off song.

Key lyric: "Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking

You’re irreplaceable"

“Winter in America,” Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson One of the most profound and politically astute artists in music history, Scott-Heron would have dragged this administration to filth, as he often did with Nixon’s.

Key lyric: "The Constitution, a noble piece of paper, would free society.

It struggled, but then died in vain

“Heroes,” David Bowie

Dedicated to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, George Kent, and David Holmes.

Key lyric: "And the shame was on the other side

Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever

Then we could be heroes, just for one day."

Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her @reneeygraham.