Have You Got Ears?

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I preface the following by noting that you can find Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and even some David Allan Coe in my music collection. I regard Johnny Cash as one of the most unique and important performers of the past century, and believe his cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and the accompanying video to be perhaps the most powerful and poignant work of the past year.

So it is not a genre thing when I say Darryl Worley's ode to 9/11 is a staggeringly wretched tune. "Have You Forgotten?" sounds like a lost parody from The Simpsons except not as tuneful as Lurlene Lumpkin or as sharply focused as "We're Sending Our Love Down the Well."

Worley manages to turn "bin Laden" and "forgotten" into a rhymed couplet, which goes to the heart of the conceptual dysfunction of the song. Worley aims to shoot down doubts about "this war" but immediately u-turns into bin Laden, the man whose name the Bush administration refuses to speak.

In fact, the more you remember bin Laden and America's "people blown away" the more you might wonder how it is Saddam has morphed into public enemy number one. But that is evidently not the effect the song is having.

It is climbing the country charts and KZLA in Los Angeles reports that a Web poll found 89 percent of listeners want to hear the song.

They must be stone deaf.

NEXT: Jew Hater or Doofus?

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  1. Now David Alan Coe is somebody you can get your teeth into. “Cum Stains on My Pillow”, “Fuck Anita Bryant” and, my favorite, “The Three Biggest Lies”.

    Now THAT’S country.

  2. I raelly hate to defend Lee Greenwood, but if my memory is correct, he didn’t record his song in a time of war. (Didn’t Bush I use it as his campaign theme song in ’88.)

    Worley’s song is not only awful; it’s a rank attempt to capitalize commercially on war. You’d think country fans would be against war profiteering.

  3. The “patriotic” music industry is much like the “contemporary Christian” scam: it cynically churns out a lot of third-rate crap because it assumes it has a captive audience of morons who feel obligated to like anything labelled “patriotic” or “Christian.” How else can you explain either Lee Greenwood, or Christy Lane and Sandi Patty?

    Mountain Goat, please provide a complete set of lyrics, if you have them, for “Where Were You When Your Brain Stopped Working.” It sounds like the funniest song parody since Evel Karaoke’s tribute to Elton John, “Gerbil in Your Ass.”

  4. I haven’t heard the song, but I’ve read the lyrics freakin’ everywhere, and it’s sad but true: a great many people assume that because Sept. 11 happened and now we’re invading Iraq, that Iraq was behind Sept. 11. This is alchemy and prestidigitation and malfeasance and every other 50-cent-word you can think of on the part of Team Bush.

    By the way, “Hurt” is great, but I prefer Cash’s cover of “Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden. It’s like it was written just for him.

  5. “I hear people say, we don’t need this war,
    and I say, there are some things worth fighting for…”

    Sure there are. However, Iraq’s oil/government/WMD don’t fall into that category.

    “What about our freedom, and this piece of ground,
    We didn’t get to keep them, by backing down…”

    Yeah, freedom, let’s talk about that. Personally, I’d like to be free to take a plane without worrying about which countries we pissed off that particular week. As far as earning those freedoms, we didn’t get them by backing down, nor did we get to keep them by picking fights. We got them by defending ourselves against foreign aggressors.

    Oh yeah, and against overzealous politicians.

    “They say we don’t realize the mess we’re getting in, before you start your preaching, let me ask you this my friend…”

    Before I begin *my* preaching?? Hrumph.

    “Do you remember, blah blah”

    Yeah, I do – that’s why I’d rather remain focused on the a-holes who attacked us, rather than Iraq.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. Of course, the highlight of the song is when he says, “and you say we shouldn’t worry about Bin Laden…”

    I don’t think the phrase “Straw Man” quite does this lyric justice. Who in the hell is actually suggesting we forget about Bin Laden? What the hell does that have to do with bombing Iraq?

    I’m about to get vertigo from standing up so high on this soap box.

  6. Speaking of semi-literacy, there is no such thing as “most unique.” The term “unique” is a superlative. Pots and kettles, old boy.

  7. Heard/saw whatsisface and his little friend sing it on Hannity & Colmes last night. As soon as I heard that hackneyed high-root sustained G-C-G-C progression I knew I was in for something lame-o… but, holy canoli, talk about yer pieces of crap.
    I haven’t so embarrassed for a live performer since Lou Rawls had a coughing attack during the Grammys in ’76 or so. “You’ll never find–anuh!-huh!-hah! Someone who luack!-hak!-hak!!!”

  8. This song is asking for a good parody. Any ideas anyone?
    What I have so far:
    “Have You Forgotten?” is replaced by
    “They Helped Bin Laden” (They=US Govt/Saudis) or possibly
    “Have They Forgotten?”

    Original lyrics in quotes. Variations seperated
    by slash:

    “I hear people sayin
    We don’t need this war
    But I say there’s some things
    worth fightin for.”

    I hear people sayin
    That we need this war
    But I say the truth is/I agree there’s some things
    worth fightin for.

    “What about our freedom
    And this piece of ground?
    We didn’t get to keep them
    by backing down”

    What about Al Queda
    And the Saudi funds
    Why are we so trusting
    Of these villains?

    “They say we don’t realize
    The mess we’re getting in
    Before you start to preachin
    Let me ask you this my friend…”

    And our leaders all say
    We should not question them
    Before we start the fightin
    Let me ask you this my friend…

    Of course I have only spent a few minutes on this.
    I heard of this song (propaganda?) just today so have not had the time to think of something really good.
    With the interesting ideas being thrown around here, I thought this would be a good group to ask.

  9. I hear people saying
    turn your head and cough;
    which reminds me that there’s some things
    worth turning off.
    what about the trite sentiment
    in this here piece of crap
    we didn’t get to Montezuma
    watching talent take a nap

    I don’t think you realize
    the true message that you send
    so while you go on preaching
    let me ask you this my friend

    have you forgotten
    how to write a decent song?
    I’m seein’ ol’ P.J. Morgan
    hammerin’ on the Gong
    have you forgotten-
    -it’s really hard to tell
    ’cause my neighbors all are with me
    and we’re in a living hell

    and you know better than to rhyme “Bin Ladin” with “forgotten”
    have you forgotten?

  10. dammit! posted without signing it!!!!!!

    ^
    1
    that was me…and I’m copyrighting!!!!!!

    not really.

  11. Y’all are bein’ mighty hard on the ole boy. I admit it’s not as good as “Grandma Got Runned Over By A Raindeer” but it’s feelin’s that’re impotent nowadays, ya no.

    Ya natterin’ naboobs!

  12. That’s good!

    May i humbly suggest trying to work the buzz words in. Something with rogue nations, weapons of mass destruction (that’s tough – eve of destruction?), evil, gassed his own people, nukyular, North Korea, France, Germany, Russia, China and the latest one, “diplomacy”.

  13. Maybe country listeners can relate to Worley’s inarticulate commentary on global events?

  14. Now I’ve been there with the soldiers
    Who’ve gone away to war
    And you can bet that they remember
    Just what they’re fightin’ for

    What about the boys from ‘Nam
    Who shut off all their brains?
    This is different, it’s Saddam
    Won’t get fooled again

  15. Spot on.

    Worley’s ballad is every bit as nauseating as that insipid “Proud to beee and American, where at least I know I’m free!” song a few years back. They used to play the 1812 Overture for the Fourth of July here in Austin and then inexplicably substituted that song one year at the fireworks.

    Maybe they decided to nix 1812 because it was written by a Commie.

  16. Americans think Al Qaeda and Taliban are synonymous; I’m guessing they must think Iraq is the capital of Afghanistan. What else can explain their falling for this bait and switch plan?

    I’ve taken the liberty of re-writing the lyrics of these patriotic songs, converting Alan Jackson’s famous song to “Where were you when your brain stopped working?” and Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be just a Mexican.”

    Try it, the songs start to make more sense.

  17. I heard Worley’s song yesterday when Sean Hannity played it. The song is, amazingly, even more inept than the “buy America” songs another radio talker, Chuck Harder, used to play. Obviously, some people cannot distingush beteween their politics and good taste.

    Oh, and you are spot on re: Cash’s “Hurt” cover.

  18. On the topic of cover songs by/involving Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson recorded a reggae cover of “Worried Man Blues” in Kingston.

  19. I’ve got a weekend gig as a DJ at a country radio station — wanna guess which song was most requested this week? Yep: “Have You Forgotten?”

    Didn’t surprise me a bit, I knew it was going to be popular the first time I heard it (I didn’t, and don’t, like the piece of crap song, but I knew the audience would).

    Modern country music is like fatty comfort food for the brain; it’s all about making the listener feel good about their poor and stupid life by reinforcing a false sense of superiority over those who don’t share their lifestyle or values.

    That’s why silly songs about unlikely events that make them feel good about their superstitions (think John Michael Montgomery’s “The Little Girl” or Alabama’s “Angels Among Us”) are so popular.

    Or why they like songs like John Conlee’s “Common Man” or Aaron Tippin’s “Working Man’s PhD” or Randy Travis’ “Better Class of Losers” that tell them it’s not only okay, but it’s a virtue to be a poor hourly laborer barely scraping by that lives in a doublewide, because rich and powerful equals evil.

    Or that it’s only natural to be stupid and irresponsible (“It Ain’t No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Old Enough To Know Better But Still Too Young To Care,” most of Hank Williams Jr.)

    And the most manipulative, smaltzy songs that give them a good cry (“The Baby,” “Almost Home,” “What If She’s An Angel,” “Chain of Love,” etc.) are okay no matter how badly written as long as they reinforce the listener’s value system of God, Family, and Country. They actually like cliches and trite situations — the familiar is comforting and you don’t have to actually think about things that way. And if the songs are contradictory or contain illogical mental leaps it’s because the belief system they are modeled on does and the songs merely accurately reflect that.

    So, when a “God Bless The USA,” a “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue” or a “Have You Forgotten?” comes along that reinforces their reflexive patriotism, they love it. It’s a bonding thing between them, the artist, and the rest of the audience — makes ’em feel like one big happy family united against the outsiders in a semi-religious way. That the song is musically amatureish and lyrically inept is beside the point.

    To be against such a “patriotic” (as they see it) song would be to be against the USA, and “If you don’t love it, leave it, let this song that I’m singing be a warning” to quote a Merle Haggard song from the Vietnam era.

    Thinking people that value musical complexity, originality, and challenging lyrics are simply not country radio’s target audience (nor are they pop music’s target audience either, but that’s another story). Today’s radio country is a cobbled together commercial product written by contract writers churning out “hits” in a Nashville tin pan alley set-up where producers match songs to singers picked more for their looks than their artistry.

    The singer often has no real experience connecting them to the song (single singers sing about marriage, adulterous singers warble about the virtues of fidelity, love songs are sung to fictional people) and sometimes a singer barely understands the words they are singing (check out Faith Hill’s happy-chirpy cover of “Piece of My Heart” for a nauseating example of that). The exact same songs are recycled through different singers and different styles for different radio formats: Aerosmith sings “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” for rock radio while Mark Chesnutt twangs it for country stations. We aren’t dealing with a heartfelt pouring out of emotion into song by singer-songwriters here. It’s one step up from Muzak.

    The majority of listeners attracted to this product are exactly the people who eat up something like “Have You Forgotten,” in a my country right or wrong way, because it seems to answer those pesky protestors while dispelling any doubts that invading Iraq is a natural response to bin Laden, even if they aren’t quite sure why. That it’s a badly written song is beside the point. It punches the right buttons. Makes ’em feel good. Slams those protestors they wish would just shut up and go away.

    And as bad as “Have You Forgotten” is, know that there is a deluge of even worse pro war songs being sent out right now by other singers attempting to cash in that are so crappy even country radio won’t play ’em. Scary.

  20. Every country singer that’s worth a damn is over 50 or dead. Maybe the Dixie Chicks but that’s about it.

    The tome posted above about sums it up.

  21. There’s others, Lefty, but they aren’t likely to turn up on country radio.

  22. …or, for that matter, get deemed “country.” They’re more likely to get pigeonholed as “alt-country” or “country-rock.”

    A friend of mine put it best — he said that today’s mainstream “country” is far closer to Lionel Richie or Boyz II Men than genuine country music.

  23. To address points made in the original post (4th paragraph), I’ve heard that 40-something percent of Americans think Saddam was behind 9/11. Hmmmm…..

  24. Lefty, thanks!
    But I’m a lyricist, not an alchemist…

    let’s see;

    weapons of mass destruction–honky tonk angel liposuction?

  25. Crappy as this song is, you do at least have to admire the simplistic moral clarity of the conservative country artist. I always have said that if Lee Greenwood had been a liberal, his song would have gone something like:

    Well I’m proud to be an American
    But there are significant socioeconomic inequities we need to redress

    You can be for this war for many reasons. Saddam’s role in 9/11 ain’t one of them.

  26. Hey Jeff,

    Apparently you didn’t see Powell’s speech to the U.N.

  27. Practically every comment on this site is left-leaning. You mean to tell me that not one person in the 80% majority that felt this war was just have chimed in? Or could it be that their comments are being “accidentally” deleted from the board? Talk about your freedom of speech issues, lets start on this site……

  28. Alan Jackson’s song was a good one, and Toby Keiths one was good (primarily for the phrase Boot in Your Ass) but Worleys is completely well, Gay, and further illustrates todays country has gone to hell. What happened to all the outlaws.

    You know, Southern tradition dictates that you rebel against the government, not become its lapdog. Maybe its time Worley learns this, if indeed, he is a Southerner

  29. “Every country singer that’s worth a damn is over 50 or dead. Maybe the Dixie Chicks but that’s about it. …Posted by: Lefty”

    Hey! Well… maybe I’m not paying attention and they _are_ that old, but what about Lyle Lovett? Dwight Yoakam? (and at the risk of offending… Dixie Chicks???!!?!?!!? Sure, they spoke out against the war, but that doesn’t maske them great artists…)

  30. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  31. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  32. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  33. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  34. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  35. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  36. well to everyone else i really think all the songs are perfect.who’s side are you all on.

  37. Re: Darryl Worley’s song
    I’d think that the most important thing about Darryl Worley’s song is the title. It amazes me how so many people pulled their flags out of the closet to show that they are “proud to be an American”. It’s a shame that it hasn’t taken long for a lot of those flags to disappear. I am proud to be an American. I’m proud even when we have a president I don’t like, even if we’re involved in a war that we shouldn’t be in. I flew my flag before 9/11 and I’m still flying it today. I have a yellow ribbon tied to the flag pole because I support MY troops. (The ribbons don’t have anything to do with the war, by the way. They show support for those guys out there risking their lives so you can sit on your butts and take pot shots at them.)
    I think it’s shameful that country music IS the only? genre of music that has released songs related to support of our country.

  38. Re: Darryl Worley’s song
    I’d think that the most important thing about Darryl Worley’s song is the title. It amazes me how so many people pulled their flags out of the closet to show that they are “proud to be an American”. It’s a shame that it hasn’t taken long for a lot of those flags to disappear. I am proud to be an American. I’m proud even when we have a president I don’t like, even if we’re involved in a war that we shouldn’t be in. I flew my flag before 9/11 and I’m still flying it today. I have a yellow ribbon tied to the flag pole because I support MY troops. (The ribbons don’t have anything to do with the war, by the way. They show support for those guys out there risking their lives so you can sit on your butts and take pot shots at them.)
    I think it’s shameful that country music IS the only? genre of music that has released songs related to support of our country.

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