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03 May 2005

brain-dead syntho-shitkicker Vietnam-era song

It's the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, give or take a couple of days. As a little bit of Vietnam War Nostalgia, the Vleeptron Tabernacle Choir would like to perform, without comment, one of the most famous songs of that era.

Oh, okay, a little comment. If "Peace Train" was the anthem for the Anti-War Peace Freaks, "Okie from Muskogee" was the Pro-War Chevy Pickup Truck with gun racks. The idea was that everybody in this part of the USA was 100 percent solidly behind the war, heterosexuality, monogamous matrimony, family values, patriotism, good citizenship, and beer, which is legal in the United States. I happen to know that's not exactly true, but they figured if they played this brain-dead syntho-shitkicker song enough times, people would believe that's how the folks are in Oklahoma. And yes, they do smoke marijuana in Oklahoma, and the state is delighted to throw you in prison for a decade or two.

They're probably half-right; Oklahomans who aren't brain-dead and flag-simple get the hell out of Oklahoma as soon as they possibly can. Woody Guthrie was from Oklahoma, and started wandering and folksinging pretty young. I can't imagine he went back to Oklahoma very often.

If you right-click "open link in new window," maybe the midi will start playing but you can keep reading the lyrics so you can sing along. The arrangement captures the musical vacuity and talentlessness of the original version, by the vacuous and talentless Merle Haggard. Note the veiled reference to troilism -- which they don't do in Muskogee, Oklahoma, You Es Ay, but which the hippies out in San Francisco do. Old Glory is the USA flag, and white lightnin(g) is superstrong home-distilled corn (maize) whiskey, illegal because the moonshiners who make it secretly in the woods aren't paying federal whiskey tax on it.

You can also find these lyrics on the website of Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, apparently Kinky and the Jewboys like to sing this song at their concerts. Kinky also writes mystery novels, and is running for Governor of Texas in 2006. I hope he wins. He would probably snuff a lot less death-row inmates (Texas has the largest state prison system in the USA and executes human beings the way I eat potato chips) than former Texas Governor George W. Bush Jr.

Okie from Muskogee
by Roy Edward Burris and Merle Ronald Haggard (1967)

We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don't take our trips on LSD
We don't burn our draft cards down on Main Street
We like livin' right, and bein' free

I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all

We don't make a party out of lovin'
We like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo
We don't let our hair grow long and shaggy,
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do

And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all

Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear
Beads and Roman sandals won't be seen
Football's still the roughest thing on campus
And the kids here still respect the college dean

We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA


Blogger pat's pub said...

Weeeel now I ain't no big fan o' country music and it could well be that I'm wrong but I can sense some irony in this song. For a clichee it's too good to be true. I can't explain it coz I ain't no intellectual but to me it doesn't sound serious enough to be a Propaganda Song like "I raq'n'roll". Maybe Haggard wanted to create a satire and the wrong people didn't get the joke....
(Note: most Europeans only know this song from that horrible Platoon movie. the "cool" kids skip for a 420 and some Jefferson Airplane, the "squares" are listening to good ol' Merle)

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

This is the first hint I have ever heard that Merle was telling a joke with "Okie from Muskogee."

If you tell a joke, and 3 people laugh, but 4,211,721 people go violent with firearms, you are not a good joke-teller I think.

Never saw "Platoon," I don't like that fellow's movies much, but yes indeed, Jefferson Airplane was the Anti-Merle in those days. If your ears had accidentally swallowed some Merle, Jefferson Airplane was the antidote.

This is stuck permanently in my brane:

Data control and IBM
Science is mankind's brother
But all I see is drainin' me
On my Plastic Fantastic Lover ...

Grace Slick was drunk one night (not unusual for her) on a Europe tour and managed to piss off the entire nation of Germany.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Ah okay I just assumed the entire galaxy knows what a Draft Card is, but that is a very flawed and parochial and Americacentric assumption. And PatZ with his very fine assistance on the earlier subject of Universal Military Service is the perfect occasion to bring this up.

When the USA had Universal (male-only) Military Conscription (roughly from 1935 to 1972), every civilian male from 18 probably up to age 45 always had to carry a Draft Card in his wallet. If it said 1-A that meant you were tasty draft meat and you had no good reason to prevent the military from conscripting you. During WWII that was okay, you sort of wanted to go anyway.

During Vietnam, you did not want a Draft Card with 1-A. You wanted 4-F, some medical condition that permanently kept you from being drafted. Any excuse not to be Draft Bait. A friendly psychiatrist. A certificate that you were a homosexual. The aroma of LSD, marijuana, heroin -- a good solid Criminal Record. Anything. (Orthodontic teeth braces worked temporarily.)

Then when you stopped going to the Disco and got politically inspired to hate and protest the war, some guys, many guys would burn their Draft Card at big public protests. This was a serious federal crime. The government's temper was hot in those days and they would throw you in federal prison for that. (The technical crime was Destroying Government Property, the card belonged to the federal government.)

To Merle, burning your draft card was one of the worst unpatriotic acts a disrespectful goddam dirty hippie out in San Francisco could commit. (Burning Old Glory was the worst.)

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Well, here is the res ipse, the Thing Itself, a Vietnam-era US draft card:


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