The History of Taylor Swift’s ‘The Last Great American Dynasty,’ Because it Is Based on a Real House Swift Owns
Taylor Swift released her eighth and most recent studio album folklore on July 24, 2020. The album received critical acclaim and has consistently remained on the Billboard 200 chart. Unlike Swift’s previous albums, some of the songs on folklore focus on fictional characters and people besides Swift. One song in particular, “The Last Great American Dynasty,” has a real-life story behind it.
Taylor Swift wrote about other people on her new album
Whenever Swift releases a new album, many consider the songs to be autobiographical to an extent, while some songs are knowingly written about someone else. For folklore, Swift told fans that many of the songs she wrote are not actually about her.
When Swift released folklore and the music video for its lead single “Cardigan,” she answered fans’ questions about the album on YouTube.
“One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos. I created character arcs & recurring themes that map out who is singing about who,” Swift wrote. “For example, there’s a collection of 3 songs I refer to as The Teenage Love Triangle. These 3 songs explore a love triangle from all 3 people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.”
Right from the start, Swift made it clear that folklore contains fictional characters and storylines. Fans were quick to guess that “Cardigan,” “August,” and “Betty” are the songs about the love triangle.
‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is about a real person
While Swift created fictional stories with folklore, she also wrote about people in real life. It turns out “The Last Great American Dynasty” is written about Rebekah Harkness, an heiress who married William Hale Harkness. The song details their relationship and their Rhode Island house.
“Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train, it was sunny / Her saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis / Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money / And the town said, ‘How did a middle-class divorcée do it?’ / The wedding was charming, if a little gauche / There’s only so far new money goes / They picked out a home and called it ‘Holiday House’ / Their parties were tasteful, if a little loud / The doctor had told him to settle down/ It must have been her fault his heart gave out,” Swift sings in the song.
“The Last Great American Dynasty” goes on to describe how Rebekah had “a marvelous time ruining everything” after her husband’s death.
How the song ties back to Taylor Swift
One might wonder why Swift would choose to write about Rebekah and her house. In the song’s bridge, Swift tells listeners what makes the heiress and Holiday House so special.
“They say she was seen on occasion / Pacing the rocks, staring out at the midnight sea / And in a feud with her neighbor / She stole his dog and dyed it key lime green / Fifty years is a long time / Holiday House sat quietly on that beach / Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits / And then it was bought by me,” Swift reveals.
She goes on to sing, “Who knows, if I never showed up, what could’ve been / There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen / I had a marvelous time ruining everything,” connecting her life story and personality back to the house’s former owner.
Holiday House was built in 1930, and Swift bought the house in 2013. Much like Rebekah Harkness, local residents look down on Taylor Swift for disrupting the peace of the neighborhood, but based on the lyrics of “The Last Great American Dynasty,” she does not mind one bit.