16
Aug 02

Steve Earle-John Walkers Blues

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Steve Earle-John Walkers Blues
It has had controversy, and then controversy about that controversy and then call outs about how the artist is doing this for the publicity, which makes Steve Earle’s John Walkers Blues an official meme.

I have been looking for the song so I don’t have to depend on the press and have not had much luck on Kaaza or Win MX but thanks to Geoff ParkesI have found a copy and can talk about the music itself.

The First Criticism about the song was that it praised John Walker, and that was treasonous, for Walker plotted against America. This song isn’t really about Walker, it’s about America.

The Second Criticism has been that Earle is an out of touch marxist who is using Walker as a way to criticize youth culture. There is not much judgement here, and in the mirror not much praise. It is a simple narrative.

The Third Criticism is that the sounds of Mullahs and Imams,the chanting of Arabic Prayers as a coda is disrespectful to Islam. Being a simple narrative that criticizes Americas culture of consumption by using the figure of John Walker, there needs to be some Islamic Content.

The piece starts with a standard leftist criticism of American Culture. But you cannot avoid that with Walker. As Earle points out this was a wealthy scion of California, coddled in the therapeutic culture that fails to provide a belief system of much structure. He talks about how John felt isolated from the culture. He is “just an American boy/raised on mtv/seen all the kids in the soda pop bands/ and none of them look like me”

Feeling isolated from the immersive content of youth media, his identity as a teenager and as a citizen is questioned. That questioning leads him farther and farther. Why doesn’t Earle insert his voice here? Because it is not Earles song.

Thats the genius of the song. He is speaking through Walker because he knows all the editorials view this decision as incomprehensible . The only way that we can understand Berkley to Kabul is when we are told as a first person narrative, because the “soda pop bands” talk that way.
The Country song is American and the Arabic inserts itself as a musical trope to explain the development of his spirit. God has replaced America and the Mosque has provided content and structure, and this content is why there is a Coda of Mullahs.

There is one problem ,and that is his mention of Christ in the third verse, calling attention to his Ascension using Jesus as a blueprint. I think that the Narrator does this as a critique of the west. We have worked hard not to know Islam and the only religious terms we can understand are Judeo-Christian ones. That is whythe Arabic later on is so powerful, It loses us.

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