Not about women at all! Back in 1970 when The Guess Who released their hit, American Woman, they copped a fair bit of criticism about it being more than a little chauvinistic – but it’s not about women from America at all…
The very first live album I purchased was back in 1972 – Live at the Paramont by The Guess Who. I reckon I must have almost worn that piece of vinyl out. It was a great album with the Burton Cummings piano-based, Albert Flasher, and the harmonica of Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon, but the highlight was the B-side’s 16+ minute version of American Woman.
from canada with love
The Guess Who began as The Reflections and evolved to The Guess Who? dropping the “?” in 1968. They had a number of hit records but none came close to the success of American Woman.
As a band they suffered a fair amount of inner turmoil and personnel changes. Through it all, the driving forces in the band were the talents of Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman. Even this relationship was stretched to breaking point, however, when Randy converted to Mormonism back in the early 70s sometime.
Eventually, Randy left to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The band split in 1975, reunited in 1977, and is still touring today.
double success for randy
The Guess Who was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987. Bachman-Turner Overdrive received the same honour in 2003.
guess who trivia
The Guess who were asked by Richard Nixon to play at the Whitehouse. Mrs Nixon contacted the band to ask that they don’t play American Woman because of the anti-American lyrics.
american woman fax
- American Woman was recorded on August 13, 1969 and released in January 1970 on the album, American Woman.
- American Woman was written by The Guess Who band members Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson and Jim Kale.
- American Woman began as a live jam at a concert. The band were improvising, Burton made up some lyrics, a kid recorded it, everyone liked it… the band asked the kid for the tape and hit the studio to record the song, virtually exactly as it was improvised a few days before.
- American Woman hit #1 on the US singles chart.
- Here’s what co-writer Jim Kale had to say about American Woman;
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 it 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.
- American Woman has been covered by, Led Zeppelin, and Lenny Krazitz. Lenny covered it for the movie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. While it only made it to #49 on the singles chart, it did win a Grammy – Best Male Rock Performance – in 2000.
- American Woman lyrics.
american woman – the guess who – 1970 – full version video
american woman – the guess who – 1970 – live video
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