For My Sunday Song #268, we are going to discuss the controversial song “Ballad of Trayvon Martin” by Will Hoge off his protest E.P. from 2012 called ‘Modern American Protest Music. The song, along with the rest of the album, is brutal and forthright. Will Hoge lays out in all its ugliness and truth and exposes the underbelly of America.
The “Ballad of Trayvon Martin” is about the case where George Zimmerman shoots a young black gentlemen who seems to me minding his own business. Will tells the story in great detail about why George shoots Trayvon to how George seems to get off and not charged with murder. Will isn’t afraid to point out the racism inherent in the system and he takes aim at the Florida “Stand Your Own Ground” Law. He definitely doesn’t paint a pretty picture about George or even Police Chief Lee. I remember vividly when this happened and nothing seem to make sense from the news reports. I could never see what reason George had to be suspicious other than a young black man walking down the street. Oh my heavens, that must mean he is up to no good…at least in George’s eyes. If George would’ve only listened to the 911 Dispatcher and do nothing and the Police handle it, would it have turned out differently?
Now let us talk about the music. Will comes straight in to the verses within the first note of starting the song accompanied by an electric guitar. After the opening verse, the drum and another guitar join and by the chorus we get the full band in its all its glory. It is simple, yet effective as it should be as the lyrics are the main focus as this is a protest song don’t forget. I love the little guitar solos between the chorus and the next verse that happens a couple times. All-in-all, the song is so powerful and packs quite a punch. Will really painted a picture of the situation with his words and they flowed perfectly together. His story telling is on full display and a perfect example on why I think Will is one of the best songwriters in the business.
For My Sunday Song #262, we are talking about “Jesus Came to Tennessee” by Will Hoge. The song is off one of Will’s protest E.P.s called ‘Modern American Protest Music’ from 2012. The whole album is Will speaking out about what was going on in America at the time and there will be another song we highlight from this E.P. That will be two songs out of ten that will come from an E.P. and not an album and that should tell you what I think about the E.P.
This one is where the lyrics need to be read as it is totally and utterly brilliant. The song is a fictional story about Jesus coming down to Tennessee and visited with Will. It is a conversation he and Jesus had as they drove around Tennessee. It is hilarious at times no doubt with Jesus saying the following…
And I’ll call off this doomsday end of the world and I can go back home “It gets wild when I leave Daddy and John Lennon up there all alone”
But most of it is commentary to how badly we have screwed up things down here. Will and his wife had a child out of wedlock, but Jesus says thats okay as he was born out of wedlock as well. Jesus sees all the war and poverty and how we treat the gays and He is ready to pull the plug on us. Will asks Jesus if he wants to watch Fox or CNN and Jesus says he just wants to hear the truth. And then Jesus calls off the Doomsday when he sees the little children of all different races and sexes playing together with no cares about race or anything. Jesus then said maybe there is hope. Which reminds us that racism is learned and not natural. There is so much great stuff in this song that you need to listen to it more than once. Here is one more line that I love…
I yelled, “One more thing Jesus, could you help me write some hits?” And in a big voice he said that “I will, if you quit writin’ songs like this”
I love that line as it shows that Will doesn’t take himself serious and has a great sense of humor. I’m telling you, this guy is pure gold!! I could dissect every line in this song and relate to current events, but I think you will pick up on it easily enough when you hear it. It is a combination of everything that is wrong with our country right now and some hope that we could fix it.
Musically, it is a country style track and Will speaks-sings the lyrics like some old-school outlaw country track. It is a simple beat the whole time and Will goes through the whole conversation with Jesus. There isn’t too much to it as this song is all about the lyrics so listen close and take it all in.
As everyone is aware, David Bowie had what is called his Berlin Era which was the time period between 1976-1979 when he lived in Berlin and recorded several albums including ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lodger’. During that same period, Iggy Pop was living in Berlin as well and the two got together and wrote the song we covering this month on The Original vs. The Cover. That song is “China Girl”.
The Original version of this song is actually by Iggy Pop. It was released by Iggy in 1977 on his album ‘The Idiot’. David Bowie’s version didn’t come out until 1983 on his album ‘Let’s Dance’. I will tell you that at the time of Bowie’s release I was completely unaware that Iggy had done this song 6 years earlier so I thought this was the original.
There has been discussion over the meaning of the song over the years. One group believes the song is about a Vietnamese woman that Iggy was completely infatuated with. Her name is Kuelan Nguyen. The song is about his desire to be with her, but at the same time warn her of the problems of Western Civilization and the damage it can do as you can see with the line…”Visions of swastikas in my head”. The fact the were in Berlin probably added to that commentary.
The other camp thought the song was about Heroin since the term “China White” is a term used to describe heroin. The girl in the song was considered the Heroin and all the problems it can cause. I can believe either version, but the truth is it was actually about the woman that Iggy was crazy about. I prefer the love story over the drugs. Now, let’s get to the music.