Can you judge a man by his favorite song? Perhaps that's unfair, but when it comes to presidents, we judge them by everything else they do (or at least incorporate what they're doing into our previous judgments), so favorite songs might be a relatively good barometer. Bill Clinton got brownie points for his routine of jogging to McDonald's. George W. Bush will go down in history as the man who coined the term "internets." No one knows anything about Gerald Ford except for that he was forgetful.
So, favorite songs aren't exactly a frivolous piece to add to the legacy, and hey, you've always wanted to know which president was the best match for you musically (right?), so here are the favorite songs of the last eleven presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. Each encapsulates a cultural moment from the last sixty years.
Dwight Eisenhower: Ike actually put out an album of his favorite tunes. The 34th President enjoyed peaceful tunes to pacify his fear of the growing power of the military industrial complex. A favorite Ike tune: Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze.
John F. Kennedy: JFK answered this question once in public, but he actually asked his wife Jackie what he should say. Jackie had to endure a lot as the first lady, so we'll accept her choice for Kennedy's favorite song as his. Jackie said "Greensleeves," and that sounded fine to the President. This answer is now part of JFK's Presidential Library:
Lyndon B. Johnson: LBJ was known to spend afternoons in his retirement, moseying around his ranch in a white convertible, listening to "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" by B.J. Thomas. Not a bad way to spend the twilight years:
Richard Nixon: Tricky Dick was full of surprises. He still is, years after his death. The two craziest things I learned today both came in the form of Richard Nixon videos. The first was this footage of Nixon joking with staffers minutes before he resigned from the presidency. The other is that Richard Nixon wrote a piece he called Richard Nixon's Piano Concerto #1, and performed it on the Jack Paar show. The performance apparently helped Nixon repair his image after losing the California gubernatorial race in 1962. Nixon also allegedly blasted the music from Victory at Sea as his presidency was crumbling, but we'll show Tricky Dick in his brighter days when he didn't mind getting kicked around:
Gerald Ford: President Ford joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. His favorite song is the beautiful Navy hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save. Now you know more about Gerald Ford than most people:
Jimmy Carter: Georgia's most famous peanut farmer was a stark break toward populism from the Republicans who preceded him, and his love of folk music reflected that. Carter recognized who the king of that world was. Everyone did. It was Bob Dylan. One song in particular informed the 39th President's views:
The other source of my understanding about what’s right and wrong in this society is from a friend of mine, a poet named Bob Dylan. After listening to his records about “The Ballad of Hattie Carol” and “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times, They Are a-Changing,” I’ve learned to appreciate the dynamism of change in a modern society.
I grew up as a landowner’s son. But I don’t think I ever realized the proper interrelationship between the landowner and those who worked on a farm until I heard Dylan’s record, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More.” So I come here speaking to you today about your subject with a base for my information founded on Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan.
Ronald Reagan: The current hero of the Republican Party's musical hero was Frankie Blue Eyes. Sinatra happened to have a charming song with the same name as Reagan's wife (who may or may not have been "a tomboy in lace"), so that made this one an easy pick for the Republican savior:
George H.W. Bush: Okay, I admit, my extensive research into George Herbert Walker Bush's favorite song came up empty. All we have is a quote that seems more designed to please Texans than express an artistic love: “When I need a little advice about Saddam Hussein, I turn to country music.” Fair enough, Mr. President. Maybe we can meet halfway. When I need a little advice about your son, I turn to country music darling Shelby Lynne:
Bill Clinton: Slick Willy was known for his love of jazz. He has released multiple top song lists, with varying degrees of overlap, but one that appears multiple times and fits what we know of the potential first First Man of The United States is Bahia by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd:
George W. Bush: Dubya has given several answers to this one over the years, including Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man Who Stilled The Water and other country classics, but at least once, George W. Bush had a knack for the Knack and named their hit My Sharona as his favorite song:
Barack Obama: The 44th president is known to love Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, but asked to give a top ten during the 2008 race, Obama put a hit from a band that broke up too soon, and maybe a subtle hint to the country he would soon lead: