Casimir Pulaski is a big deal in the Midwest. In Chicago, the Polish-nobleman-turned-Revolutionary-War-hero's birthday is still widely celebrated; he has parks, streets, and schools named after him, and Obama made him an honorary citizen in 2009. His name has also been commemorated in song on more than one occasion—most recently by the Chicago-born Andrew Bird.
Bird's 2013 EP, I Want to See Pulaski at Night, isn't actually about the Polish hero. It's about a street in Chicago named for him which, as Bird explains in this live performance on YouTube, is "not a pretty sight." But crooned in Bird's warm voice, it sounds like somewhere wonderful to which we're being invited. He isn't the first songwriter to mention Pulaski, though—Sufjan Stevens' 2005 album Illinois includes a track named Casimir Pulaski Day.
Who was Pulaski? He started off life as Polish royalty—but through a succession of events including exile from Poland and a meeting with Benjamin Franklin, he ended up in Philadelphia in 1777, recruited to help America in its battle for independence. After helping Washington develop a functional cavalry, he died from wounds sustained at the siege of Savannah, years before the war would end.
But most of us, more than 200 years later, know Pulaski not as a war hero but as a place name—or, in this case, a song title. [Spotify]
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