Really, is there anything better than homicidal music? I don’t mean better than anything. Of course homicide itself is way more fun than just listening to songs about it, but unfortunately, most of us lead sheltered lives and can’t let our darkest fantasies run wild.
This is a great song, “If I Had a Gun” by a great new singer. Her name is Diana Jones, and she’s 45 years old. She has an interesting history. She was adopted and never knew her real parents. Moved around the Northeast a lot as a kid, ran away from home at 15 and lived on the streets for a while, then to dead-end jobs, and finally she got accepted at a major university.
She got a degree, then went into an MFA program at another university. Later she wandered around Europe, the whole time painting and playing folk songs trying to sound like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
Around 10 years ago, she decided to look up her birth parents. It was hard to do, but she finally found them in Tennessee. She went to visit them, and there they were, people who looked just like her, mountain people. Her grandfather took her to Great Smoky Mountains National Park where they have a redone old village.
There they bought an Alan Lomax album. Alan Lomax was an interesting guy. He was a professor at a university, a musicologist who wandered around recording “forgotten music,” especially folk music.
They were listening to the songs, called mountain music, on the way home, and to her surprise, her grandfather knew them all. Turns out he had been a mountain music musician. That got her interested in the genre, and she has been recording mountain music ever since. The phrase mountain music is hardly known, but this type of music is better known as “old-time music.”
This is is the original American folk music.
It goes back to the early 1800’s and possibly even prior. Its roots were generally in English, Scottish and Irish folk music, and you can hear some of that in this song. The banjo is an essential instrument in this genre, and it has an interesting history in the US.
Most of us think that the Black contribution to US music began at the latest in the early 1900’s with Ragtime. Not the case. The banjo in the US was originally a Black instrument, modeled after some sort of an instrument used in Africa.
In Appalachia, Black musicians introduced the banjo in the early 1800’s. There are not many Blacks in Appalachia now, but there were more back then. There were few if any slaves there, even though most of the Appalachian states were slave states. In the Appalachian parts of these states, there was no use for Black slaves.
Many Black slave runaways probably ended up there after taking off from plantations in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Once you got into the mountains, probably nobody was going to find you anyway, and the mountain folk didn’t care about runaway slaves. These areas were very isolated. Many people never left their small Appalachian town in their lives, and most outsiders never went there.
Old-time music was biggest in Appalachia, but it was also present elsewhere, such as in New England, the Midwest, the South and the West. Since these other areas were less isolated, old-time music tended to go out as people were exposed to newer styles, but the remoteness of Appalachia allowed the music to continue on into the 20th Century relatively unchanged.
Old-time music is folk music, but it is not country or bluegrass music. But! Both country music and bluegrass music came out of old-time music. What’s fascinating is that we never think of all the all-White, redneck country and bluegrass music as being even remotely Black-influenced, but if they both came out of Black-influenced old-time music, there is even Black influence in the Whitest of American music.
I’m not too wild about folk proper, and a lot of bluegrass leaves me cold, but this song is killer! I’ve never heard a woman write a song about murdering her abusive husband before – what a great topic!
Her guitar? A 1967 Gibson. What else?
Further, it’s an excellent rejoinder to “Hey Joe,” the great song by Jimi Hendrix.
Another great homicidal song is “Violence” by Mott the Hoople. Mott was only one of the greatest rock bands of all time, but almost no one has heard of them these days. They were a pretty big underground band in the 1970’s, and their albums Mott and The Hoople were pretty big hits, but then they broke up. Ian Hunter later went solo.
Viiiii-o-lence, viiiii-o-lence, it’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense!
Well, of course. Once you’ve experienced violence up close and personal, you will respect if for the rest of your life. That’s how it makes you see sense.
I’m a missing link, poolroom stink, I can’t talk
(Well that’s too bad)
What’s going on, something’s wrong, I can’t work
Can’t go to school, the teacher’s a fool, the preacher’s a jerk
(Well that’s such a drag)
Got nothing to do, street-corner blues, and nowhere to walk
It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense
Gotta fight, nothing’s right, livin’ nowhere
(That’s so sad)
Watch out for the gun, snake on the run, hide in my hair
You keep your mouth shut, or you’ll get cut. Haha – I like to scare
(Bet you’re so mad)
I’m a battery louse, a superstar mouse, I don’t care
Get off my back or I’ll attack, ‘n I don’t owe you nothin’ (OK)
Head for your hole, you’re sick and you’re old
‘N I’m here to tell you something
It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense
From the punk era, there was “Homicide” by 999. Great song!
I believe…in homicide!
Resign to it…
Sorry for this morbid post, but I was in a killer mood tonite and I could not resist.