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American Woman (song): Wikis


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"American Woman"
Single by The Guess Who
from the album American Woman
B-side "No Sugar Tonight"
Released March 1970 (U.S.)
Format Vinyl single
Recorded August 12, 1969 at the RCA Mid-America Recording Center, Studio B, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Hard rock
Folk rock
Length 5:10 (album version) 3:51 (single version)
Label RCA/Victor
Writer(s) Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
Producer Jack Richardson
"American Woman"
Single by Lenny Kravitz
from the album 5
Released June 29, 1999
Format CD Single
Recorded 1998
Genre Hard rock,
Funk rock
Length 4:25
Label Virgin Records America
Producer Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz singles chronology
"Fly Away"
"American Woman"
"Black Velveteen"
Alternate cover
Limited edition cover (with exclusive poster)

"American Woman" is the title track of Canadian band The Guess Who's 1970 album, American Woman.


Song information

The song's origins took the form of a live jam in Kitchener, Ontario.[1] The group was rushing into the second set and began improvising a rhythm to liven up the crowd. Burton Cummings, the lead singer, began improvising lyrics to fit the music.[1]

The song's lyrics have been the matter of some debate, often interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics (especially the draft). Jim Kale, the group's bassist and the song's co-author, explained his take on the lyrics:

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.[1]

Randy Bachman has claimed that the American woman referred to in the song is in fact the Statue of Liberty, furthering the anti-war theme.

As a single, the track spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 (where it was credited as a double sided hit, along with "No Sugar Tonight"), an unprecedented success for a Canadian band; at the time, it competed with singles such as The Jackson 5's "ABC" and the Beatles's "Let it Be".

"American Woman" was voted Best Canadian Single of All Time by Chart Magazine in both the 2000 and 2005 polls of readers, music industry professionals, and musicians throughout Canada.

The song has been covered by many rock artists, including Lenny Kravitz, Krokus and The Butthole Surfers. It was also featured in Sam Mendes's movie American Beauty. It has most recently been covered by former Guess Who members Cummings and Bachman in a blues rock style..

Lenny Kravitz version

Kravitz covered "American Woman" for the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. It was later included in the 1999 re-issue of his 5 album. The music video featured actress Heather Graham (who starred in The Spy Who Shagged Me); the original political themes of the song were largely replaced by sex appeal.

Track listing

  1. "American Woman" (Single version) – 3:50
  2. "Straight Cold Player" (Live performance) – 3:42
  3. "Thinking of You" (Hexum Dancehall Remix) – 5:58
  4. "Fields of Joy" (Live performance) – 4:20


Grammy Awards 2000

  • Best Male Rock Performance: Won

In pop culture

  • This was used in commercials for Tommy Hilfiger and Castrol motor oil.
  • The Guess Who version was featured in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
  • The song has been covered in the grindcore style by pioneering band Anal Cunt and appears on their early album Top 40 Hits along with several other covers such as Stayin' Alive by The Bee Gees.
  • The alternative rock band Butthole Surfers have covered the song.
  • The Lenny Kravitz version appears on the game Karaoke Revolution Party. It is also available as downloadable content for the game Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore. The original version by The Guess Who is featured in the music video games Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour. However, the acoustic intro is not included.
  • The song was sung by Kevin Spacey in the movie American Beauty while playing a character called Lester Burnham. He sang this song along with the radio playing in his car while on his way to get a smiley burger shortly after quitting his job. He was also smoking marijuana while singing this song proving his complete disconnection from his former lifestyle.
  • The song was featured in the second episode of Season 1 of Due South, entitled "Diefenbaker's Day Off."
  • The chorus is interpolated (and rewritten) in "Road Block", a track from Biz Markie's 1991 album I Need a Haircut.


  • Shortly after its release The Guess Who were invited to play at the White House. Because of its supposed anti-American lyrics, Pat Nixon asked that they not play "American Woman".[2]
  • The song starts with a 1:15 intro, in which Randy Bachman plays a blues shuffle and turnaround repetitively on an acoustic guitar. While Bachman plays guitar, Cummings sings in a spoken word style. Although this intro is contained on all releases of the song, it is rarely played on the radio.
  • The song is widely regarded as a rock classic. M.C. Strong calls it "a juddering behemoth of a record fuelled by guitar distortion and a testosterone saturated verve" and describes Cummings as sounding "like Jim Morrison after a particularly heavy night on the whisky and cigs".[3]
Preceded by
"ABC" by The Jackson 5
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (The Guess Who version)
May 9, 1970 - May 29, 1970
(three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Everything is Beautiful" by Ray Stevens


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ allmusic ((( The Guess Who > Biography )))
  3. ^ Strong, M. C. (1998). The Great Rock Discography, 1998, p 322.

External links

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