1492: An Italian, funded by the Queen of Spain, sailed west to find the east, discovered a small island in the Caribbean, decided it was India, and sailed home to share the happy news. Ponce de León, Balboa, Cordoba, Cortés, Coronado and 24 other conquistadors were sent from Spain to bring home whatever they could find.
1562: France sent Laudonnière on 3 expeditions to South Carolina and Florida, but Spanish Admiral Menéndez slaughtered the French in 1565 and built the fortress city of St. Augustine, Florida.
1620: Religious misfits from Holland and England boarded a ship called the Mayflower, crossed the Atlantic in 66 days, landed at a place called Plymouth Rock, met some friendly natives and celebrated Thanksgiving with them, presumably on the last Thursday in November.
1662: A Dutchman named Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from a group of local Indians for merchandise worth 60 Dutch guilders and built a thriving community there. It is considered to be the greatest real estate deal in the history of the world. Two years later, the English showed up with cannons and announced that they would now be in charge. The Dutch asked, “Can we keep our houses and our businesses and all of our stuff?”
The English said, “Sure, no problem. You just have to let us be in charge.”
The Dutch smiled and said, “Welcome to America.”
In the decades that followed, the sons and daughters of Spanish conquistadors and French explorers and religious misfits and Dutch traders and English soldiers were joined by tens of thousands of optimistic adventurers and entrepreneurs and families who dreamed of a better life. They came from everywhere.
And then slave traders arrived with shiploads of captives for sale. But no one smiled at the captives and said, “Welcome to America.” In fact, these dark-skinned newcomers were not allowed to keep houses or businesses or anything else, not even their own children.
July 4th, 1776: A new nation was born when everyone got tired of the English being in charge. And as this baby nation grew, her people began to sing.
1886: The song of Ellis Island, the song of the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
– Emma Lazarus
1904: The song of a Century of Progress.
I’m a Yankee Doodle dandy, a Yankee Doodle, do or die.
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July.
I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart, she’s my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee Doodle came to London just to ride the ponies, I am the Yankee Doodle boy.
– George M. Cohan
1968: The song of our Wandering Years.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said, though I knew she was sleeping,
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike,
They’ve all come to look for America…”
– Paul Simon
Everywhere around the world, they’re coming to America.
Every time that flag’s unfurled, they’re coming to America.
Got a dream they’ve got to share. They’re coming to America.
They’re coming to America. They’re coming to America.
Today… today… today… today… today!
– Neil Diamond
“So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways, all my underdogs! We will never be, never be anything but loud and nitty gritty, dirty little freaks. Won’t you come-on and come-on and raise your glass? Just come-on and come-on and raise your glass!”
Don McLean wrote: “I went down to the sacred store, where I’d heard the music years before, but the man there said the music wouldn’t play.” Every time roving reporter Rotbart hears those lines from American Pie he remembers rock ‘n roll concert promoter Barry Fey who organized mega-shows featuring Jimi Hendrix, The Who, U2, The Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night, and many other music legends during his 30 years as a promoter. Barry Fey died 8 years ago, but the story of his unconventional path to success lives on. This week, Rotbart plays highlights of his two interviews with Barry Fey, demonstrating how and why the rocker was an entrepreneurial and marketing genius. All the coolest interviews are at MondayMorningRadio.com