New Country For Old Men: The Eternal Mystery Of Tim McGraw, Part 1

Published on September 19th, 2014 in: Music, New Country For Old Men |

By Jeffery X Martin

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If you were to ask me what the worst song I’ve ever heard in my entire life is (go ahead; ask me, quietly, just whisper it in your mind), I would tell you without hesitation that Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw” is the Abomination that Causes Desolation, the Thing That Should Not Be, the Final Solution of Country Music.

The music is Native American in the same way that cartoons of the 1930s imagined tribal music to be. The only thing it lacks are deep-voiced men singing, “Heap big Injun want wampum!” Not that the actual lyrics are too far removed from that.

Check out this sensitive, poetic quatrain from the song:

You can find me in my wigwam
I’ll be beatin’ on my tom-tom
Pull out the pipe and smoke you some
Hey, and pass it around

If there’s a wretched cliché about Native Americans that isn’t found somewhere in this song, I don’t know what it is. From tee-pees to medicine men to headbands, it’s all here in one tiny little bundle of misappropriation. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it does. The song ends by copying the chorus of a song from 1971 by Paul Revere & the Raiders called “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Nation).”

That’s a serious song! It was released during the time of the Cherokee Uprising, when Native Americans rose up against the horrible conditions they were living in: the squalor of the reservations, the isolation and poverty they encountered every day, hatred from other races, and the enduring legacy of pain caused by the Trail of Tears. It’s the mourning of entire tribes of people, a heart-wrenching song of the American Diaspora.

Using the chorus in a song like “Indian Outlaw” cheapens both works, mocks the actual event, and is wholly inappropriate. Now, to be fair, “Indian Outlaw” is a novelty song. That’s really all it is, and all it’s supposed to be. It’s a particularly awful novelty song, though, and you would rightly suppose that Tim McGraw’s career took a gigantic nosedive into obscurity after that.

Oh, no.

He’s a megastar. Gigantic. He shines like a spotlight in the parking lot of a new gas station at night, three hot dogs for 99 cents.

How did this happen?

To be continued . . .

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