The Yes we can chords



Barack Obama, Music and politics, Music and society, Musematic analysis, Popular music harmony, Intertext


Study of the four-chord loop ║: G – B – Em – C :║ in the song Yes We Can from the video by (ADAMS, 2008) released during the 2008 US presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Departing from IOCM and PMFC identification of the musematic analysis (TAGG, 2009), Yes We Can is compared to harmony, melody, rhythm, instrumentation and lyrics found in iconic popular songs of the Afro-Bristish-American tradition, also taking into consideration the attitudes of relevant composers and performers engaged in social and political issues.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Philip Tagg, Faculté de Musique, Université de Montreal, Montreal (Canadá)

Professor of Musicology at the Faculté de Musique of the Université de Montréal (Canada). Co-founder of the International Association for the study of Popular Music (IASPM) and mentor of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (EPMOW), he has published dozens of articles in the most prestigious journals. He was a lecturer at the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool (England), where he supervised masters and doctoral students and developed courses on musicology, analysis, harmony, and semiology related to popular music. He has also worked at the University of Göteborg (Sweden) and the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Sweden). He is a classical organist and keyboardist in rock and pop bands, including Röda Kapellet. As a composer, he has written choral works and popular songs. He is the author and contributor to several educational radio programs related to popular music. He has received several awards in the areas of composition, teaching, and research. His website is one of the most visited musicology and ethnomusicology of popular music sites in the world, where he makes available for free a significant part of his extensive didactic and research work.

Fausto Borém, University Federal of Minas Gerais (UFMG) (Brazil)

Professor at the School of Music at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), where he created the Master's and the Per Musi Magazine. He is a CNPq researcher since 1994 and his research results include a book, three book chapters dozens of articles on performance practices and their interfaces (composition, analysis, musicology, ethnomusicology of and music education) in national and international journals, dozens of editions of scores and recitals in the and recitals in the main national and international double bass events. He has received several awards in Brazil and abroad as a soloist, as a soloist, theorist, composer and teacher. He has played with classical musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Menahen Pressler, Yoel Levi, Arnaldo Cohen Cohen and popular musicians such as Hermeto Pascoal, Egberto Gismonti, Henry Mancini, Bill Mays, Kristin Korb, Grupo UAKTI, Toninho Horta, Juarez Moreira, Tavinho Moura, Roberto Corrêa, Túlio Mourão and Fabiano Araújo Costa.


Referências de textos:

BJÖRNBERG, Alf. On aeolian harmony in contemporary popular music. Org. Göteborg. IASPM - Nordic Branch Working Papers, no. DK 1. 1989 (também disponível online em (Acesso em 18 de março, 2009).

HARALAMBOS, Michael. Right on: from blues to soul in black America. London: Eddison Press: 1974.

MOORE, Allan F. Patterns of harmony. Popular Music, v.11, n.1, 1992. p.73-106.

VEGA, Carlos. Panorama de la música popular argentina. Buenos Aires: Losada: 1944.

TAGG, Philip. Glossary of special terms, abbreviations, neologisms, etc. used in writings by Philip Tagg. (Acesso em 19 de outubro de 2009).

______. Tagg’s harmony handout. . (Acesso em 19 de outubro de 2009).

Referências de áudio:

ABBA. Hasta mañana. Waterloo. Polar POLS 252. 1974.

ADAMS, William (“”). Yes we can. YouTube. 2008. (Acesso em 2 de fevereiro, 2008; gravado em 31 de janeiro, 2008).

ANDERSSON, Lena. Hej du glada sommar. Polar POS 1175. 1973.

BACH, Johann Sebastian. Air, Orchestral Suite in D Major (BWV 1068), 1731. Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag fur Musik (1973); also on Six Brandenburg concertos and four orchestral suites (Ouverturen). Archiv 423 492-2 (1988).

BAND AID. Do They Know It’s Christmas?. FEED 1 [single], 1984.

BEATLES, The. She loves you. Parlophone 5015. 1963.

______. A Day In the life. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Parlophone PCS 7027. 1967.

______. Let it be. Let it be. Apple PCS 7096. 1970.


______. Nobody knows you when you’re down and out (unplugged, 9208) (Acesso em 2 de fevereiro de 2009). 1992.

CLINE, Patsy. Crazy. The Sound of Patsy Cline. MCA MUP 316. 1961.

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL. Someday never comes. Mardi Gras. Fantasy 4C062-9339. 1971.

COOPER, Alice. School’s out. Warner K56007. 1972.

DANIELS, Charlie. A Few more rednecks. Radio special. Epic 1780. 1989.

DENVER, John. Country roads. Poems, prayers and promises. RCA Victor SF 8219. 1971.

DEREK AND THE DOMINOES. Nobody knows you when you’re down and out; Bell Bottom Blues. Derek and the Dominoes. Polydor 2 LP-2625-005. 1970.

DIXIE CHICKS, The. Not ready to make nice; The Long way round. The Long way round. OpenWide/Columbia 82876 80739-2. 2006.

DYLAN, Bob. A Hard rain’s gonna fall’; Don’t think twice, It’s all right. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. CBS 25AP269. 1963.

______. The Times they are a-changing. CBS 2105. 1964a.

______. It ain’t me, babe. Another side of Bob Dylan. CBS 25AP271. 1964b.

______. Its all over now, Baby Blue. Bringing it all back home. Columbia CS 9128. 1965.

______. John Wesley Harding; I pity the poor immigrant. John Wesley Harding. CBS 25AP277. 1967.

______. Lay, lady, lay. Nashville skyline. CBS 25AP278. 1969.

______. George Jackson. CBS 45516. 1971.

______. Knockin’ on heaven’s door. Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid. Columbia KC 32460. 1973.

______. I shall be released. Before the flood. Island IDBD1. 1974.

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA. Jungle (single com Shine a little love no Lado B). JET 12 144. 1973.

FRANCIS, Connie. Who’s sorry now? MGM 12588. 1957.

FREBERG, Stan. The Great pretender. Capitol 45-CL 14571. 1956.

GOLDEN GATE ORCHESTRA. The Charleston. Edison Diamond 51542-R. 1925.

GUTHRIE, WOODY. Oklahoma hills [disco original não encontrado]. 1937.

______. [All of] You fascists are bound to lose. The Ballad operas: TheMartins and the Coys. Rounder 1819 (2000). 1944a.

______. Hey Lolly Lolly. Legendary Woody Guthrie. Tradition 2058 (197?).1944b.

______. This Land is your land. This land is your land. The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1. Smithsonian Folkways 40100 (1960). 1944c.

______. Grand Coulee Dam. Columbia River Collection. Topic TSCD 448 (1988). 1945.

______. Hard travelin’. The Greatest songs of Woody Guthrie.Vanguard VSD 3536 (1972). 1946.

______. Two good men. Ballads of Sacco & Vanzetti. Smithsonian Folkways SF 40060 (1960). 1946-1947.

HAMILTON, George (IV). Abilene. RCA Victor 47-9469. 1963.

HOOLA BANDOOLA BAND. Man måste veta vad man önskar sig. Fri information. MNW 35P. 1972.

JOURNEY. Don’t stop believing. Escape. Columbia TC 37408. 1981.

KING, Ben E. Stand by me. Atco 6194.1961.

LENNON, John. Imagine. Apple SAPCOR 10004. 1971.

LENNON, John; THE PLASTIC ONO BAND. Instant karma; Woman Is the nigger of mankind. Shaved fish. Apple PCS 7173. 1975.

LOS CALCHAKIS. La Flûte Indienne. Barclay Panache 920014. 1966.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD. Free bird. Lynyrd Skynyrd. MCA DMCL 1798. 1973.

MARLEY, BOB & THE WAILERS. No Woman no cry. Island WIP 6244; also No Woman no cry live at The Lyceum, London. Island 16 398 AT (1975). 1974.

PARAVONIAN, Rob. Pachelbel rant. (Acesso em 8 de fevereiro de 2009). 2006.

PETER & GORDON. A World without love. Columbia DB 7225. 1964

PETER PAUL AND MARY. Puff (the Magic Dragon). Warner WEP 601. 1963.

______. Hangman. The Last thing on my mind. Warner WEP 617. 1965.

PROCOL HARUM. A Whiter Shade Of Pale. Deram DM 126. 1967.

RADIOHEAD. Creep. Parlophone TCR 6078; 1992.

REDDING, Otis. Sitting on the dock of the bay. Stax 169027. 1967.

RÖDA KAPELLET. Revolutionens vagga; Solidaritetssång för Chiles folk. Röda Kapellet. Avanti AVLP 01. 1974.

______.Lärling: från arbetarhem via 9tp. Party Music/Partimusik. Avanti AVLP 02. 1976.

RUFFIN, David. What becomes of the brokenhearted? Soul (Motown) 35022. 1966.

SAKAMOTO, Kiu. Sukiyaki. Odeon 7-1-3030. 1963.

SMITH, Bessie. Nobody knows you when you’re down and out. 78 Columbia 14451-D. 1929.

SPENCER DAVIS GROUP, The. Nobody knows you when you’re down and out. Gimme some lovin. United Artists UAL 3587. 1967.

THE BAND. The Weight. Music from Big Pink. Capitol ST 2955. 1968.

______. Daniel and the sacred harp. Stage fright. Capitol SW 425. 1970.

THE FARM. All together now. Jive ZB 44241. 1990.

THE ONLY ONES. Another girl another planet. CBS 6576. 1978.

THE PLATTERS. The great pretender. Mercury MT 117. 1955.

TWISTED SISTER. We’re not going to take it. Stay hungry. Atlantic 7567-80156-2. 1984.

WHITE, BARRY. I can’t get enough of your love babe. Pye Int. 7N25661. 1974.

WILL.I.AM. Veja ADAMS, Wiliam. 2008.


YOUNG, Neil. Southern Man. After the Gold Rush. Reprise 7599-27243-1. 1970.

Referência de vídeo:

PECK, Cecília; KOPPLE, Bárbara. Shut up and sing (Cabin Creek Films/Weinstein, 2006).



How to Cite

Tagg, Philip, and Fausto Borém. 2010. “The Yes We Can Chords”. Per Musi, no. 22 (July):1-15.