Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Hey Joe"

I probably haven't heard "Hey Joe" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience in a few years but in the past two days I've heard it twice on the radio in Chicago.  This right after a man shot and killed several women in California and the media has been abuzz about the dangers of male privilege and misogyny.

"Hey Joe" is one of those songs I recognize when I hear it but that I never really spent much time thinking about.  Yesterday I paused and listened to the lyrics and I cannot believe what I heard.  The whole song is about a man shooting and killing his wife.

Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?
Hey Joe, I said where you goin' with that gun in your hand?
Alright. I'm goin down to shoot my old lady,
you know I caught her messin' 'round with another man.
Yeah,! I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady,
you know I caught her messin' 'round with another man.
Huh! And that ain't too cool.
Uh, hey Joe, I heard you shot your woman down,
you shot her down.
Uh, hey Joe, I heard you shot you old lady down,
you shot her down to the ground. Yeah!

Yes, I did, I shot her,
you know I caught her messin' 'round,
messin' 'round town.
Uh, yes I did, I shot her
you know I caught my old lady messin' 'round town.
And I gave her the gun and I shot her!
Shoot her one more time again, baby!...
Hey Joe, said now,
uh, where you gonna run to now, where you gonna run to?...
I'm goin' way down south, way down south,
way down south to Mexico way! Alright!
I'm goin' way down south,
way down where I can be free!
Ain't no one gonna find me babe!
Ain't no hangman gonna,
he ain't gonna put a rope around me!
This is the background music of our lives.  Is it any wonder that male violence against women is so normalized? 


Annie Lipgloss said...

Yes! I was thinking about this the other day, how there are many songs about men killing women for being "bitches" or "unfaithful" ("Deliah's Gone" by Johnny Cash, "Used to Love Her" by Guns and Roses), but most songs with a female protagonist have her killing a man because he might otherwise kill her first ("Gunpowder and Lead" by Miranda Lambert, "Goodbye Earl" by Dixie Chicks). Rihanna's "Man Down" was more in the vein of the not-self-defense shooting song and everyone lost their shit because she's a woman. The video made it about her killing a rapist. But the actual song lyrics say that she killed him for "playing me for a fool".

Cortney said...

And isn't it interesting that songs where women murder their abusers are so heavily criticized while songs where men murder women (and there are SO MANY) play without comment. We are so desensitized to it.

I am also thinking of Independence Day by Martina McBride. That song was heavily criticized but again, it was about a woman violently killing her abuser and herself! I recall hearing a lot of criticism of the Dixie Chicks for Goodbye Earl as well.

Dean Moore said...

Hm. Though I see little issue with story-telling with songs and I think that "Hey Joe" was meant to tell a tragedy rather than glorify violence towards women, I think a fair point has been raised: society and its desensitization to violence.
Eminem's "Kim" is a shining example of deplorable violence somewhat overlooked by the artists popularity.

Andrew_Hutt said...

I admit that I more or less accept this song, partly because it has a rather black mood to it. Not like some of the country or folk songs that almost romanticize murder with their twangy, jangly melodies. The bass playing especially, helps darken this song. BUT I have to admit that I'm concerned about the line "Shoot her one more time again for me!" at 2:06. I mean Jimi might not have meant anything by it, but it's one of those things that some might have actually taken him or his record company to court for, after a guy shot his girlfriend and "Hey Joe" was found on his turntable and that lyric in particular was discovered.

Psam said...

I'm glad to have lived in a social circle where no One I know would criticize Goodbye Earl or Independence Day. I've only heard those songs, and the Women who wrote and sang them, shown glowing pride and support. I've played as a member of a country band all over British Columbia and Alberta and no country fans ever said anything the slightest bit denigrating about them. The Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride write songs in the finest tradition of exposing injustice and providing suggestions for remedies (even if the extreme nature of those remedies is tragically necessitated by desperation) when conventional justice doesn't seem capable of protecting the abused. Masterful songwriters and performers.

Whether Hendrix did something unjust by producing that song is important to consider as a deterrent to today's musicians from producing music that some members of certain demographics may perceive as an act of terror against Them. Any person who does perceive it as an act of terror against their demographic should have the right to see the producer of such a song taken to court for acts that incited terror in Others.

Is it possible that Hendrix believed that the impact of the song Hey Joe, upon listeners prone to violent acts against a Woman, would be solely to get Them to reconsider the devastating consequences of their ignorance and moral incompetence? No matter what the answer to that question is, it is reckless and irresponsible to either criticize Hendrix for making that song or laud Him as an icon of pop entertainment without having at least considered the above question.