Janet Reno is executive producer of musical U.S. history “book”

Miami, Florida (AP) 9-07

The nation’s first woman attorney general is making history again – in music.

Janet Reno is the executive producer of the three-CD, 50-song “Song of America” compilation, a project she calls a history book that begins with an American Indian song and ends with songs inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The collection, featuring performances by various artists, goes on sale Tuesday. Along with patriotic songs such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” it also includes musical explorations of the country’s more troubled chapters, such as “Dixie” and Bruce Springsteen’s lament on the AIDS epidemic, “Streets of Philadelphia.”

“It’s the good, the bad and the ugly,” Reno said. “To omit ‘Dixie’ or the ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ is to omit a part of what has made America.”

Reno came up with the idea for the music project in 1998, while serving as President Clinton’s attorney general. Her niece’s husband, a musician, performed in Washington two songs he wrote about a Mexican folk hero and the disappearance of the cowboy from the Old West.

“She immediately took out a piece of paper and started drawing out eras of American history,” said Ed Pettersen, who is married to Reno’s niece Jane Hurchalla. “She’s going, ‘You should write a song about this era and this era.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a good idea, but I think other people have already done the writing.”’

Pettersen produced the compilation with Bob Olhsson and David Macias, who won a Grammy in 2005 for a collection of songs by American composer Stephen Foster. Reno attended that Grammy Awards ceremony with Macias to recruit artists for the project.

“It was fascinating,” she said. “It was a festival. They would ask me, ‘What are you doing here?’ and they’d look at me in stunned amazement when I told them.”

Reno, now retired in the Miami neighborhood of Kendall, said she hopes “Song of America” will be used in classrooms.

“I want my nieces and nephews to have something that could give them a chance to experience all of America and its history and its beautiful countryside, and its people of today and its challenges of today. And I want them to have the joy of song,” she said.

Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com