Rick's List - Country Boy Songs Edition
Typically, we mute the TV commercials when they come on, but I was late getting to the channel controller the other day and heard the first part of an ad that, as a soundtrack, was using John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." I couldn't get the damned song out of my head!
And then, because life IS a funny, funny riddle (if your definition of "funny" has a significant element of cruel irony), I got in the CRV to run an errand and accidentally hit the SCAN button on our admittedly archaic car radio. And what tune should come up?
Why, Hank Williams Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive." What are the odds?! But I found the contrast betwixt the two iconic anthems as compelling as any debate over whether Chopin's E-flat major nocturne is superior to the one he composed in B-flat minor. Or the even-more-equally compelling question, "What is a nocturne?"
Anyway, there are plenty more contemporary songs about the glories and privileges of being a "country boy," but they are pale imitations of the iconic stylistic dichotomy as represented by Hank Jr. and John. Some observations and thematic extrapolations:
1. John's country boy gleefully elaborates on inheriting his late father's fiddle, the aforementioned and William James-ian observation that "life ain't nothin' but a funny funny riddle," and the fact that, being as the sun is rising, he has cakes on the griddle.
2. John's country boy, we can conclude, is the sort that would yuk it up with Jeff Foxworthy, and the two of them would have good-hearted "duels" at the county fair ring-the-bell-with-a-sledgehammer contest whilst their dates, those cute Simmons sisters, watched admiringly. Later, they all piled into John's experimental plane and flew out over the moonlit sea ...
3. Hank's "country boy," on the other hand, is considerably darker. He makes his own whiskey, can plow a field all day long, and catch catfish from dusk 'til dawn.
4. He can rhyme "long" with "dawn."
5. He also does NOT like city people, particularly after a friend was mugged and killed in Manhattan. Reflecting on the killer, Hank sang, "I'd like to spit some Beechnut in that dude's eye / and shoot him with my ol' .45."
6. Hank's country boy, we can conclude, would head out with Cormac McCarthy to an old camper hidden in the East Texas piney woods where a meth-cook owed them money. Because you don't want to set off a firearm too close to a speed lab, they were armed with a sabre once worn by the country boy's great-grandaddy, who fought in the Civil War Battle of Pickett's Mill for the Confederacy under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
7. Cormac and Hank kicked down the camper door and informed the terrified, skeletal tweaker that he either had their money or he was about to have one less hand.
8. Before anything could happen, a cheap transistor radio, which the chemist listened to whilst making chemicals, started playing "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." All three men stopped in collective reverence.
"Daing," Hank said. "Ol' John Denver could bring it. I wish I'd been a country boy like him."
Cormac spit some Beechnut in the speed-chef's eye and said, "Yeah. I just wish he hadn't been flyin' Skynyrd's plane that fateful day."
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