At The Coop

At The Coop

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Hell You Say!

            "Perhaps the only precept taught me by my Grandfather Wills that I have honored all my adult life is that profanity and obscenity entitle people who don't want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you." --- Kurt Vonnegut "Hocus Pocus"   

         I've gotten up on my soapbox in the past about the use of "colorful" language in songs.
I had been listening to an online radio show called Hellbilly And Outlaw Radio that had recently added a few of my honkytonk tunes, when I noticed that an awful lot of the songs contained seemingly gratuitous cussing. That sent me off on a rant about how if the only thing your song had going for it was foul language, then you really didn't have much of a song to begin with. A well-placed "hell" or "damn" is one thing, but F-bombing the $h!t out of the listener can be tasteless and often counter-productive.
          I'm no prude, and I have been known to use an expletive or three in conversation with people who understand where I'm coming from, but I don't just spew profanity everywhere I go with no regard for who might be within earshot. My mama raised me better than that. My most recent album "One More Night In Nashville" contains the word "hell" twice...once describing Music Row, and once telling someone to go there (hell, not Music Row)...but that's as off-color as the language gets. I have some late-night bar room and party songs of questionable taste, but I wasn't going to waste my meager budget putting them on an album that I hoped would get some radio play.
          We all giggled (I know I did) the first time we heard Jimmy Buffett sing "Why Don't We Get Drunk" , but some of the so-called "Outlaw Country" makes that song sound like a kindergarten-friendly nursery rhyme. I understand that it's a free (or so they tell us) country, and that we have free speech, and I wouldn't dream of trying tell somebody what they can and can't say in a song...but that doesn't mean I have to listen to it. I'm fairly certain that more people think like me on this point than not. It makes me wonder if the songwriters feel like they are being rebellious by acting like a bunch of pre-teens trying out their potty mouths, and if they realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot by limiting their audience...or if they even care. And if they don't care, why do they bother writing songs in the first place?
           I know I write songs to try to reach people, and I hope I'm preaching to a bigger choir than the one that wants to wallow in the mud...damn it!


  1. I use that Vonnegut quote quite a bit! (Actually, I usually paraphrase it by saying "Cursing gives people who already don't want to listen to you an excuse not to.")

    In my writing in general, I occasionally throw in strong language for effect of emphasis. Throw it in too much and I start to feel like I'm just not literate.

    Get to Lil Wayne type numbers and it starts to feel like the OTHER words are just connective tissue for the profanity.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Katy!
    It's the spice, not the stew...some folks seem to forget that.