I’ve been getting requests to put the lyric for “America’s Most Unwanted” song online, so here it is.

A little background for those who are flummoxed by this whole thing:

Composer Dave Soldier had this idea of doing music based on the conceptual artists Komar and Melamid’s “People’s Choice” paintings. For the paintings, Komar and Melamid would go to different countries and interview people about what they liked and disliked in art; then they would paint that country’s most and least favorite painting. It was an exercise in “democracy” from two Soviet-era conceptual artists (with really good senses of humor.) So, for example, the U.S.’s most favorite painting is large and representational. It’s a kitsch landscape with George Washington and deer and pretty children in white dresses and the sun shines all the time. While America’s least favorite is small and complicated and abstract. And Kenya’s favorite painting is almost the same as America’s except that the mountains are different and there’s a hippo instead of deer. (The funniest thing about this endeavor, I thought, was that the Netherlands, birthplace of kitsch landscapes, was the only country where those interviewed preferred abstract paintings to representational ones!)


So, in 1997, Dave and Komar and Melamid put a survey online to find out what “Americans” liked and disliked their in songs. The survey asked questions about favorite and least favorite types of music/instruments/mood/voices/topics and a lot more. They gave me the answers to the surveys and asked me to write lyrics for America’s “Most Wanted” song and America’s “Least Wanted” song. Then Dave wrote the music.

Predictably, the Most Wanted Song, a reasonably short love song between, ideally, Whitney Houston (emoting simple rhymed sentimentality) and Bruce Springstein (telling a complicated unrhymed story), was eclipsed in notoriety by the 25+ minute “Most Unwanted” song which veers wildly between tempos and textures and features an opera singer rapping about cowboys, a chorus of children singing holiday advertising, political ranting, “intellectual content,” and political folk music, among other elements. FYI, the opera singer is Dina Emerson and I’m speaking the vocal at the end through a megaphone. Dave is playing the banjo and Komar and Melamid had a great time hitting the big bass drum. And Norman Yamada directed the whole wacky 18 piece ensemble. I’m not posting the actual song here as I think it’s up in a number of places.

America’s Most Unwanted Song
(Lyrics by Nina Mankin)


Well I’m ropin’ up my saddle for the long long ride
Every time I see the desert there’s something inside says
Yo! Yo! This is the life! Give me open land and a big ol’ knife
To get some bear, deer, even a snake
I light me a fire do the shake and bake I say
Yo! Yo! I’m a cowboy now
The sun is hot and dry gonna rope me a cow I say
Yo! Yo! I’m loose and free
Whoa there Nelly you’re the horse for me!


Rope em up boys the desert is a callin’
Yahoo, yahoo, yahoo
Saddle up fellas, the dessert is a callin’
Yahoo, yahoo, yahoo


Christmas time! Christmas time!
Jesus, Mary and the manger
Christmas time, family time
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!


Easter Time! Easter Time!
Love, forgiveness, and the bunnies!
Easter Time! Chocolate time!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!


Out on the plains just me and my mind
Took me a break to read some Wittgenstein
Born in Vienna in ’89
He obessessed with theories of language and time
Like “Tractactus” where Ludwig would claim
“The logic of our language is misunderstood”
Philosophy is based on a false pretense
So philosophy itself is nonsense! Nonsense!
Philosophy itself is nonsense!


Bedutung ist tun
Es ist ein Sprachspiel
Nonsense! Nonsense!
Wörter sind inhalt
Yahoo! Yahoo!


Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur!
Self-reflection and atonement
Yom Kippur, that’s what for!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!


Oh say can you – Feel the embers glowing and the turkey in the oven!
America! Hear the children singing – there’s a turkey in the oven!
Rockets red glare! Candles are so pretty -- and a turkey in the oven!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!
Buy spurs that jingle at Wal-Mart!


Ramadan! Ramadan!
Lots of praying with no breakfast!
Ramadan, so much fun!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!


It’s home, home on the big ol’ range
Yippe tai oh get along there stranger
Rope ‘em, ride ‘em, shoot ‘em up good
We’re big and bad in the cowboy hood
I say Yo! Yo! Got a river to ford
With a life like this I never be bored
I say Yo! Yo! I’m wild and free
Whoa Miss Kitty you’re the gal for me!

Whoa Miss Kitty
I say whoa there
Whoa Miss Kitty
Yahoo! Yahoo!


Labor Day! Labor Day!
Schools are closed and pools are open!
Labor Day! All the way!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!

Oh say can you – Grandma’s on the phone go and tell her that you love her!
America! -- Daddy’s on the phone go and tell him that you love him!
The Golden land! Sister’s on the phone go and tell her that you love her!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!

Veteran’s Day! Veteran’s Day!
Big parades with guns and soldiers
Veteran’s Day! What’s there to say?
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!

Holloween! Holloween!
Candy corn for lunch and dinner!
Holloween, what a scream!
Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!

Look out there! It’s an injun band!
Coming this way, gonna fight for my land
And build a hometown grocery store
American cheese worth fighting for
Call it “dry gulch” “O.K. Corral”
Holiday spot for you and your gal
To get some cool shit and desert rays
Cowboy living the American way
It’s cowboy living
Go! Go!
It’s cowboy living
Go! Go!
It’s cowboy living
All the way!

Rope ‘em up boys!
The desert is a callin’!
Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!
Saddle up fellas!
The desert is a callin’!
Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!

Vice Presidential Candidate! Twenty-seven electoral votes!
Central policy issues! Two party system! Struggle! People!
Coming together out ofa desire to obtain political power!
Gain control of the government! Executive branch! Military branch!
Foreign affairs! Influence policy! Promote ideology – fascism!
Promote individual interests – George Stephanopoulous! Imelda Marcos!
Promote special interests – sugar! Beef! Bananas! Pork Bellies!
Pork barrels! Lumber! Coca-cola! The information superhighway!
Three thousand years of oppression!
Who enslaved humans of color? Who invaded the Carribbean?
Who murdered all the innocent children?! You did! You! You!

It may be you
It could be me
It’s not enough
To wait and see
And when we all
Lock arms and sing
Then bells of freedom
Ring ding ding!