Monday, June 20, 2011

Goodbye Earl

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Popular music is an important part of our modern society. It affects, to some extent, how we feel and especially how we think. Lyrics are often secondary in listening importance to music itself, and we may or may not notice the social implications contained in them. Society tends to pay more attention to music because of its beat and not always what the song is saying. Obviously, I know a high-quality song should have a good rhythm or beat in order to attract people to listen to it, but it’s not necessarily the most important aspect of music. The purpose of music should be informative, thought provoking, and have a meaningful message to get across to people, whether it’s a serious, romantic, or comical approach.


The Dixie Chicks sing a song about domestic violence on their album Fly. In their song, “Goodbye Earl,” Wanda and Mary Anne, two best friends from high school, are reunited when Mary Anne is informed that Wanda was severely beaten by her husband Earl and is now in intensive care, in the hospital. The two women then plot revenge they worked out a plan, and it didnt take them long to decide, That Earl had to die. From the lyrics, we assume that they fed him a poisoned dinner, Those black eyed peas, they tasted alright to me, Earl, You feelin weak? Why dont you lay down and sleep, Earl, Aint it dark, wrapped up in that tarp, Earl? Later, they probably disposed of his body in the lake Lets go out to the lake Earl, Well pack a lunch, and stuff you in the trunk, Earl. The two women live happily ever after because no one seems to notice that Earl is missing and they spend their time sell[ing] Tennessee ham and strawberry jam. Because Earl had to die, “they dont lose any sleep at night.” Once Earl is gone, Wanda begins enjoying life once again.


So the song fits within an interesting tradition of country music about violence and broken hearts; for example, one spouse comes home and finds the other one sleeping around and they often go ballistic. People often die, but in this song, a man dies because he abuses his wife. I know there’s been controversy on radio stations across the country, about whether to play the song at all because it promotes violence, even though the message of the song was not intended to promote violent acts. This song was purposely written to shine a light on the very serious subject about domestic violence and to show women that there is a way out of an abusive relationship.


The idea of “Goodbye Earl” is very similar to the song “Date Rape” off the album, 40 oz. of Freedom by Sublime. This band takes a “punk and ska” approach in singing about another serious topic; the good-looking stranger who walks into the bar captivates the lonely girl sitting by herself, “Light skin, light blue eyes, A double chin and a plastic smile”. From these lyrics, we know that the girl notices the good-looking stranger who comes up to sit next to her. ‘“My brand new car is parked right outside, How’d ya like to go for a ride?” And she said, “Wait a minute, I have to think” He said, “That’s fine. May I please buy you a drink?” One drink turned into or 4…”’ describes how the man tries to use his charm and then tries to feed off her loneliness to get the girl to leave with him. “If it wasn’t for date rape I’d never get laid”, is an example of the moronic excuse used to justify his actions. “The next day she went to her drawer, Looked up her local attorney at law, Went to the phone and filed a police report, And then she took the guy’s ass to court…..And he gave him 5 years.” This is where the retribution comes in, just like in “Goodbye Earl”, and is also an example of why the song is so comical, because in reality, the average sentenced for date rape is ½ years.


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Both songs appeal very much to me because of the message the songs talk about as well as the beat they possess. The lyrics range from social commentary to social farce, providing entertainment and brain food at the same time. They are both great songs to listen to when you feel like dancing or when you just want to forget the seriousness that sometimes drowns life; however, they also have some retribution for those abused, whether they are women or men. The songs don’t exactly have a moral depth per-say (I dont condone murdering for revenge or even date rape), but its all in good fun. Sometimes things need to be looked at for what they are, not their deeper so-called true meaning.


The song “Goodbye Earl” hits close to home, I too was in an abusive relationship, 4 years ago my boyfriend beat me and I almost ended up in the hospital, but then finally had the courage to get out. I admire that the band would take such a risk in singing so comical about such serious and sensitive topics. Music should inform people about topics we don’t want to talk about, as well as touch their lives with the messages they convey, and this band uses their unique upbeat rhythm to draw in their audience to do just that. The bands efforts are not only risk-taking but meaningful to so many women and men who have experienced such violating acts. It’s reassuring to know that singers and songwriters are willing to speak out about such “hush-hush” topics.





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