American Woman

The Guess Who:  American Woman

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

 "American Woman. Don't come hangin' round my door. Don't wanna see your face no more. I don't need your war machines."

I don't need your ghetto scenes"

Photographs:  "American Woman. Don't come hangin' round my door. Don't wanna see your face no more. I don't need your war machines. I don't need your ghetto scenes"

artists:  The Guess Who

songwriters:  Randy Bachman and Jim Kale of The Guess Who

date released:  1970 by The Guess Who; 1999 by Lenny Kravitz

The biggest success for Canadian rock band, The Guess Who was undoubtedly "American Woman." The Canadian classic was created by the purest of accidents.  During a gig at a curling rink in Kitchener-Waterloo in 1970, guitar player Randy Bachman broke a string on his guitar and took a break in the show to repair it.  Lacking replacements, he remedied a bad situation by putting on the low E-string of his guitar and tuning it to bandmate, Burton Cummings's piano.  Voila, there was the signature opening rift of "American Woman."

Having just returned from a U.S. tour, America and its ills were high on the band's mind---the Viet Nam War, racism, growing ghetto scenes, and other popular themes of the musical counterculture. Co-writer, Jim Kale, defended the song against chauvinistic attacks by stating that the song was not about a woman, but America from the point of view of a northern neighbour. 

Improvising on a work-in-progress, the lyrics just seemed to come naturally to Bachman and Kale as they continued to play in the show.  Bachman states in 100 Top Canadian Singles (Goose Lane, 2010):  "Yes, I will never forget that moment of electricity, when something hits you and you are a conductor that passes on the current of creation to the audience.  The feedback when you are on that plane is quite amazing."  Amazing Grace, indeed.  The accidental song soared to the top of the charts in both Canada and the U.S.  As a BTW, shortly after the song's release, The Guess Who were invited to play at the The White House in Washington and were asked by Mrs. Richard Nixon not to play "American Woman."  As courtly Canadians, I surmise that they complied.

 The song was resurrected by American artist, Lenny Kravitz, in 1999.  His cover of "American Woman" in 1999 replaced the anti-war theme with pure male sex appeal. He won a Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Male Rock Performance for his "American Woman."   

Lenny Kravitz version: