Thursday, March 25, 2010

Revisionist Song Singing

I turned on the news a year or so ago and saw a bunch of rural folk in Montana dancing in cowboy hats to "Johnny B. Goode."  No surprise there-- Chuck Berry has written some of the best "country" songs ever, and lots of country musicians have played his music.  (Hell-- the man wears a bolo tie most days!)  Here's an example-- the great Jerry Reed playing a medley that includes "Promised Land," "Johnny B. Goode," and others.

But here's the interesting twist.  If you read this blog, you'll know that I consider "Promised Land" a song of black liberation.  It was written during the civil rights struggle, a few months after the Birmingham church bombing.  It talks about the bus breaking down in Birmingham (home of Bull Conner, dogs, bombs and fire hoses) and "gettin' 'cross Mississippi clean."  (Chuck Berry's vague obsession with Mississippi comes up often in interviews.  See the great one posted a few weeks ago.)  But those lines about a "struggle" in Birmingham are nowhere to be found in this shortened version-- just as Waylon Jennings left the home run slugger and the guy busted for unemployment out of his version of "Brown Eyed Handsome Man."

Still-- these guys do great versions of great songs, and I wish I could tune into the Porter Wagner show today.

But as the kids are sayin' these days-- just sayin'!

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