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American Woman (song)

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Title: American Woman (song)  
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Subject: Rembrandt Pussyhorse, If I Could Fall in Love, Rock and Roll Is Dead, 1970 in music, Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance
Collection: 1969 Singles, 1969 Songs, 1970 Singles, 1999 Singles, Anti-War Songs, Billboard Hot 100 Number-One Singles, Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Lenny Kravitz Songs, Music Videos Directed by Paul Hunter, Music Videos Directed by Paul Hunter (Director), Protest Songs, Rca Victor Singles, Rpm Top Singles Number-One Singles, Song Recordings Produced by Jack Richardson (Record Producer), Song Recordings Produced by Lenny Kravitz, Songs About the United States, Songs Written by Burton Cummings, Songs Written by Randy Bachman, The Guess Who Songs, Virgin Records Singles
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American Woman (song)

"American Woman"
Single by The Guess Who
from the album American Woman
B-side "No Sugar Tonight"
Released March 1970 (1970-03)[1]
Format 7" 45 RPM
Recorded August 13, 1969[2]
Genre Rock, blues rock, hard rock
Length 3:51 (single version)
5:08 (album version)
Label RCA
Writer(s) Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson and Jim Kale
Producer(s) Jack Richardson[2]
Certification Gold (RIAA)[3]
The Guess Who singles chronology
"No Time"
(February 1970)
"American Woman"
(March 1970)
"Hand Me Down World"
(July 1970)

"American Woman" is a song by Canadian rock band The Guess Who, first released in January 1970 on the album of the same name and later in March as a single,[1] which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[4] Backed with "No Sugar Tonight," Billboard ranked it as the No. 3 record of 1970.[5]

The song has been covered by many rock artists, including Lenny Kravitz and Krokus. The song was included in Guitar Hero World Tour.


  • Versions 1
  • Background 2
  • Interpretations of the lyrics 3
  • Chart performance 4
  • Lenny Kravitz version 5
    • Track listing 5.1
    • Awards 5.2
    • Chart performance 5.3
  • Use in film 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The album version begins with an acoustic blues intro:

American woman, gonna mess your mind.
American woman, gonna mess a-your mind.

The intro then proceeds to spell out the title, then repeats the first verse before fading out and entering the hard rock portion.

The single version omits this intro and goes straight to the hard rock portion of the song.


The song's origins took the form of a live jam at a curling rink concert in Waterloo, Ontario.[6] 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. They liked what they had played and noticed a kid with a cassette recorder making a bootleg copy and asked him for the tape.[7] The subsequent studio recording features the original almost completely unchanged; only a few lines were added.[6]

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".[8]

Interpretations of the lyrics

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.[6]

Chart performance

Chart (1970) Peak
UK (The Official Charts Company)[9] 19
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[10] 1
Switzerland (Hit Parade Top 75 Singles)[11] 4
Austria (Top 40)[12] 7
Netherlands (Dutch Charts)[13] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[4] 1
US Cash Box Top Singles[14] 1

Lenny Kravitz version

"American Woman"
Single by Lenny Kravitz
from the album 5
Released June 29, 1999
Format CD
Genre Hard rock, funk rock
Length 4:25
Label Virgin Records America
Producer(s) Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz singles chronology
"Fly Away"
"American Woman"
"Black Velveteen"
Alternative cover
Limited edition cover (with exclusive poster)

Lenny Kravitz covered "American Woman" for the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Kravitz did a slower and softer version, without the signature guitar solo; he later said to Randy Bachman that the reason why he skipped the lead guitar part was "I couldn't get the sound. I couldn't get the tone."[15] It was later included in the 1999 re-issue of his 5 album. The music video (directed by Paul Hunter) 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

Chart performance

Chart (1999) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[16] 26
Canadian RPM Rock Chart[17] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[18] 49
US Billboard Adult Top 40[18] 23
US Billboard Top 40 Mainstream[18] 17
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[18] 3
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[18] 7
Preceded by
"ABC" by The Jackson 5
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (The Guess Who version)
May 9, 1970 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Everything is Beautiful" by Ray Stevens

Use in film

It was also featured in Sam Mendes's movie American Beauty.[19] Sam the Eagle performed a karaoke version of this song in a Muppets viral video. It is being used in the HBO trailer for the movie Game Change. A version sung by an older man was used in the film The Cable Guy (1996). It was heard during the ending credits of the Witchblade TV movie (2000), starred by Yancy Butler and based on the Top Cow comic book series.

See also


  1. ^ a b Strong, Martin Charles (2002). The great rock discography (Sixth ed.). The National Academies. p. 912.  
  2. ^ a b Greatest Hits RCA BG2 67774 liner notes
  3. ^ "Artist"Type "The Guess Who" under . Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1970
  6. ^ a b c American Woman" - The Guess Who""". 1970-05-09. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  7. ^ Cummings, Burton (July 23, 2013). The Guess Who legend reveals true origin of “American Woman".  
  8. ^ allmusic ((( The Guess Who > Biography )))
  9. ^ "The Guess Who - American Woman/No Sugar Tonight". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  10. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 13, No. 12, May 9, 1970".  
  11. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Guess Who - American Woman". Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  12. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Guess Who - American Woman". Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  13. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Guess Who - American Woman". Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles - 1970". Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  15. ^ Pat Pemberton (2010-08-06). "Randy Bachman Learns to Enjoy Lenny Kravitz's 'American Woman' Cover - Spinner Canada". Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  16. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 69, No. 15, August 2, 1999".  
  17. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 69, No. 8, June 14, 1999".  
  18. ^ a b c d e
  19. ^

External links

  • "American Woman"
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