Artists who write songs about American presidents aren't all that unusual. Artists who write songs about every president, that's a different story. Before the election of Barack Obama, we reported on a collection of original songs about all 43 U.S. presidencies. The three-CD set is called "Of Great and Mortal Men" and it ends with the presidency of George W. Bush. Now, just in time for the inauguration, its creators are debuting their 44th song. Joel Rose has the story.

JOEL ROSE: The songwriters behind "Of Great and Mortal Men" had hindsight on their side when it came to setting the first 43 presidencies' music. But that wasn't an option this time.

Mr. CHRISTIAN KIEFER (Songwriter, "Of Great and Mortal Men"): Because I didn't have an actual presidency to write about, the only thing I could write about is his effect on people.

(Soundbite of music)

ROSE: So Christian Kiefer started out exploring where the country has been.

Mr. KIEFER: We've spent eight years basically sitting on our hands and complaining around the watercooler.

(Soundbite of song "Someone to Wake")

Mr. WILL JOHNSON: (Singing) Maybe it's not all awful after at least eight years of U.S. (unintelligible). There's a (unintelligible). Maybe we can't own the plane.

It could have been easy to, after the last eight years, write a little more embittered type of song.

ROSE: Will Johnson of Texas band Centro-matic volunteered to sing the lead vocals, joining a long list of indie-rock performers who made guest appearances on the original project.

Mr. JOHNSON: Instead, I think it focuses on putting it to rest and looking forward as opposed to looking back anymore, which, you know, that's something I've been a little guilty of for quite some time now and I'm kind of tired of feeling that way. You know, you get tired when you're angry. (Laughing)

ROSE: It's more than three minutes into the song before the character of Barack Obama finally makes an entrance.

(Soundbite of song "Someone to Wake")

Mr. WILL JOHNSON: (Singing) What can one say? What can one say? I'll take it. I'll make it mine. If you answer, you (unintelligible). Everything will be just fine. This place is mine. Everything is all right. Everything is all right.

ROSE: Songwriter Christian Kiefer admits it might be premature to suggest that Mr. Obama will be able to fix all of the problems confronting the country. Kiefer is a history teacher in Sacramento, California. He's also the father of five kids, ranging in age from 2 months to 14 years. In his song, Kiefer says the president-elect is playing the part of the grownup.

Mr. KIEFER: He says everything is all right in the same way that you might hold a child in your arms who has an ouwie and you stroke that child, and you say everything is all right, everything is all right, you know. That's essentially, I think, what Obama has done for us as a nation. He's taken this basically broken child and said, hey, come on, everything is good. We're tough, we can do this. Let's move forward.

ROSE: For a while, Christian Kiefer considered leaving the song untitled - a nod to all of the open questions facing Mr. Obama once he takes office. But in the end, Kiefer decided to call it "Someone to Wake." For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.

(Soundbite of song "Someone to Wake")

Mr. WILL JOHNSON: (Singing) This place is mine. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right. Everything is all right.

(Soundbite of applause)

NORRIS: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.