Happy Monday, folks. As you read this, I’m heading toward my home state to visit family during Spring Break. Yeah, it’s a bit late, but that’s just when FCPS and the rest of Northern Virginia do it.
Anyway, there’s a number of absolutely fantastic musicians who call or called Oklahoma their home, too. Here’s a list of then of ’em and some of their songs.
- JJ Cale, “Clyde”: While I can’t see him pickin’ on a bass, I can see my brother barefoot on the porch pickin’ his guitar, so this one’s close enough.
- JD McPherson, “Crying’s Just A Thing You Do”: Apparently McPherson isn’t his own singer? He’s just the guitar player (as if anything this guy does on the guitar is “just” anything. He’s fantastic).
- Parker Millsap, “Other Arrangements”: These new Oklahoma musicians draw on styles and themes from the past but give them modern twists. I like it.
- The Flaming Lips, “Five Stop Mother Superior Rain”: From really early in the Lips’ career comes this number, which references a Jesus egg? I don’t know what that is, but the song is trippy and beautiful and fun to play on guitar.
- Woody Guthrie, “Pastures of Plenty”: One of the key touchstones of Oklahoma music and folk music in general.
- The Gap Band, “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”: Damn, that keyboard riff. That drum beat. Damn.
- The All-American Rejects, “Gives You Hell”: I’ve never listened to these guys. Dunno what I was expecting. It wasn’t this. Some MOR alternative rock that sounds designed by committee to be as non-offensive as possible. I expected this song to have more teeth.
- Gene Autry, “Back In The Saddle Again”: I prefer this version to the Aerosmith version.
- Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction”: I prefer the Turtles’ version of this song, but they’re not from Oklahoma. McGuire was, apparently.
- Roy Clark, “Yesterday When I Was Young”: You ever see this guy do pickin’ live? He was a monster on a flattop acoustic. Dude coulda put all those metalheads to absolute shame.
I’m traveling to Oklahoma this week, so all of this week’s songs are by Oklahoma artists or bands related to Oklahoma in some way, shape, or form. It’s also longer than most of our lists, ’cause I couldn’t leave any of these songs off.
- John Fullbright, “Jericho (Live)”: Sort of Oklahoma’s favorite musical son. He’s a damn good singer, and this is my favorite song by him. I also sang on the same tribute album as him once, so we’re, like, connected and stuff.
- Parker Millsap, “Truck Stop Gospel”: He’s a good ol’ country boy just pickin’ and grinnin’.
- Samantha Crain, “Santa Fe”: A Shawnee girl (my hometown), she apparently went to high school with my brother?
- The Regular Joes, “Restless”: My uncle’s old rock and roll band. He’s the lead guitarist.
- The Flaming Lips, “Waitin’ For A Superman”: Yeah, this is two Flaming Lips songs in a row, but it’s my playlist and I’ll put the Lips on as many playlists as I wanna.
- Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land”: Patron Saint of Okies, unionist, and antifa before being antifa was cool.
- Tulsa, “Shaker”: They called their band Tulsa. Like I wasn’t gonna include one of their songs on this list.
- Turnpike Troubadours, “Every Girl”: Country hoedown! Bop along and sing along if you know the words.
- Cross Canadian Ragweed, “In Oklahoma”: The late-90s Oklahoma musical success story that still kicks out new stuff even now.
- Billy Bragg & WIlco, “Way Over Yonder In the Minor Key”: “I come from a place called Okfuskee,” this song begins. That’s where the town of Okemah, where my grandparents lived for so long (and where Woody Guthrie is from), is located.
- Leon Russell, “Tight Rope”: He’s an Okie from Lawton. Dude was the session musician back in the ’60s and ’70s, and he continued to kick ass until his death in 2016.
- Bruce Springsteen, “My Oklahoma Home”: Hey, remember the Dust Bowl and how it tried to kill the Great Plains? This song is about that, though it has a sense of humor about things.
- JD McPherson, “Signs and Signifiers”: This guy does ’50s-style rave-up electric blues like it never went out of style. This song is slower than most of the rest of the album it’s from, but it’s still pretty awesome.
- James McMurtry, “Choctaw Bingo”: Let’s have a family reunion in Okahoma, why not?
- Merle Haggard, “Okie From Muskogee”: Look, if I didn’t include this song on this list, they’d take away my Okie License, and then I wouldn’t be able to go snipe hunting anymore, and I still haven’t caught a damn snipe yet.
If you’ve had a conversation that lasts more than two minutes with me in the past month or so, you’ve probably heard me go off on some rant about the current political climate and America’s current administration. Believe me, I’d love to talk about something else, but every time I turn around, something new and horrifying has happened and I get angry and riled up all over again.
Now, this may seem tangential, but my creative pursuits go in waves. Sometimes, I’m all about novel writing, sometimes it’s comics and drawing, and sometimes it’s music. Lately, it’s been music. And here’s where it connects: the single upside to my current mood and reaction to American politics has been to write a slew of protest songs.
Now, there’s a long history of musicians picking up an instrument and address injustice and inequality. Guys like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie made their careers writing songs of protest (sure, Dylan moved away from that pretty quick, but that’s how he started out). Speaking out for the less fortunate, the voiceless, the silent masses – that’s what protest music is all about.
And so, despite my distaste for the current administration and its policies, my songwriting has felt pretty inspired lately. I would gladly trade inspiration for a different president, mind you.