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Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Gone Out of Hand?

John Powers 13 May 2011 No Comment

I’m for law and order, the way that it should be.
This song’s about the night they spent protecting you from me.

Don’t you think this outlaw bit has done got out of hand?
What started out to be a joke, the law don’t understand.

Waylon Jennings, the “Outlaw” Country legend, wrote the above in 1978, in a self examination of his public persona vs. the fact that he really didn’t like being arrested. Making himself out to be an “Outlaw” artist tended to attract not only other real outlaws, but law enforcement as well.

Wednesday night, aging Hip-Hop Artist Common visited the White House in what sounds like an excruciating evening of poetry reading along with former poets laureate Billy Collins and Rita Dove, singer (Sean Penn’s Sister-in-Law) Aimee Mann and comedian-musician Steve Martin and his bluegrass group the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Common’s poetry/lyrics feature the usual subjects of love, lust, violence, gunplay and per Karl Rove a call for violence against police officer, and called for killing the former president of the United States George W. Bush. Sean Hannity, Mike Medved and good chunk of the conservative media has condemned the invitation as a promotion of the negative aspects of American culture, with the implied connections of the Hip Hop and Rap Industry to the gangsterism and thuggishness.

Never fear, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has defended the decision to invite Common.

“It’s ironic to pick out those particular lyrics and – about this particular artist, when in fact, he’s known as a socially conscious hip-hop artist or rapper who has done a lot of good things,” Carney said.

Carney also said the president opposed offensive lyrics.

which is perhaps the most striking to me. Why should the President of the United States have an opinion whatsoever on the lyrics of a particular artist? When Paul McCartney sang, “I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her” did anyone need to care if LBJ opposed Paul’s meanderings, or was Lyndon’s silence an implied approval of Paul’s woman-beating?

I find it troubling that neither the Conservatives nor the Leftists can separate artistic work from real life. Not every song, not every movie, not every poetry reading needs some type of disclaimer on it to protect the customer from the unpleasantry of the art, nor is there much of any reason for the Government to be promoting one type of art over another.

I have enjoyed Waylon Jennings music for 30 years plus now, and I don’t plan to change to make Jay Carney and Karl Rove happy.  I have not listened much to Common, though I will if I want, and so can the President, without my objections.  I suggest if he objects to Common’s lyrics, that our Grammy winning President can try writing his own uplifting lyrics and can easily win another coveted award.

Here’s a little Cocaine Blues from 4 time White House visitor Johnny Cash (as played by Joaquin Phoenix) to get you through the day.

Early one mornin’ while makin’ the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
I went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin’ .44 beneath my head


John Powers is President of the Chicago Daily Observer.  He does not endorse the lifestyles portrayed by Waylon Jennings, Common, or Johnny Cash.

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