For more than two years, Radiolab has been running a brilliant side-podcast called More Perfect which involves deeply reported, engaging stories about Supreme Court decisions, skilfully mixing in audio from the trials, historic or new interviews with the people involved, and commentary from scholars and activists that serve to illuminate the incredible stories behind the court decisions that have shaped life in America.
This season, More Perfect is back with an album called The Most Perfect, which features 27 different original songs that explain and dramatize the 27 Amendments to the US Constitution since its was first ratified.
The songs are intended as a kind of modern, next-level Schoolhouse Rock, with musicians ranging from Dolly Parton to The Slants to They Might Be Giants to Joey Stylez (whose First Amendment song is a scorching indictment of the murderous religious persecution of American indigenous people.
The accompanying liner notes are a series of excellent potted histories of the amendments and their historic significance.
The Radiolab folks talk about the album in today's podcast.
I'd venture a guess that most Americans (like us, before we started this project) can't name more than one or two amendments to the Constitution, let alone remember that there are 27 of them. But these 27 "insertions" to our founding document outline our basic rights as Americans. Not only that, they show a country changing and evolving and re-imagining itself; striving (and not always succeeding) to be better.
With that in mind, the team at More Perfect challenged ourselves to come up with a way to give these words the swagger they deserve. So we invited some of the best musicians in the world to create songs inspired by each of the 27 amendments; a kind of "Schoolhouse Rock!" for the 21st Century.
These songs are a small way to say that these words matter.
We're calling it "27: The Most Perfect Album," and I hope it ends up on some playlists, maybe in a classroom or two. Thanks to the National Constitution Center for partnering with us on the essays below. Most of all, we're deeply indebted to all the musicians below that gave their time, talents, and energies to the project. Enjoy!
27: The Most Perfect Album [WNYC Studios]