CHARLES FOSTER KANE AND HIS SISTER, MEG: Normally, Roger Ebert’s Sunday “Movie Answer Man” column is the last place to look for inside info about neo-garage rock. But that’s what I got this week, when Ebert answered a letter from a reader who recently watched “Citizen Kane” with his two children, when he noticed something strange:
“Whereupon everyone bursts into a song, ‘There is a man, a certain man … ,’ after a few lines, my kids were mouthing the words. I was incredulous until they told me these were the lyrics to a song by the White Stripes, ‘The Union Forever,’ on the hit album ‘White Blood Cells.’ While the tune is utterly different, the lyrics are exactly those in the film and they are bracketed by other significant lines from the “Kane” script.
Lines from ‘Kane’ make up the entire bridge section of the song:
“There is a man/a certain man/and for the poor you may be sure/that he’ll do all he can/who is this one?/who’s favourite son?/just by his action has the traction/magnets on the run/who likes to smoke/enjoys a joke/and wouldn’t get a bit/upset if he were really broke/with wealth and fame/he’s still the same/I’ll bet you five you’re not alive/If you don’t know his name”
The song appears in its entirety to be a homage to ‘Kane’; singer Jack White even says “I’m C.F.K.” in its first verse. Now, since the Stripes gave themselves sole songwriting credit for the song, they may soon be in trouble with Warner Bros. (which owns the rights to ‘Kane’), as well as the writers’ guild, and the estates of Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles.
Funny, I thought I knew quite a bit about The Greatest Film of All Time from my Film Studies days- but I’ve been listening to that Stripes album for almost two years, and I somehow never noticed until now. Even more strangely, the letter writer, Phil Freshman, is (like me) from St. Louis Park, MN.