Friday, September 6, 2013

Dwight Yoakam - I Sang Dixie



A true love song.

*   *   *



Dwight Yoakam - I Sang Dixie Lyrics

I sang 'Dixie' as he died
The people just walked on by as I cried
The bottle had robbed him, all his rebel pride
So I sang 'Dixie' as he died

He said, "Way down yonder in the land of cotton
Old times there ain't near as rotten as they are
On this damned old L.A. street"
Then he drew a dying breath
Laid his head against my chest
Please Lord, take his soul back home to Dixie

I sang 'Dixie' as he died
People just walked on by, as I cried
The bottle had robbed him, all his rebel pride
So I sang 'Dixie' as he died

He said, "Listen to me, son, while you still can
Run back home to that Southern land
Don't you see what life here has done to me?"
Then he closed those old blue eyes
And fell limp against my side
No more pain, and now he's safe back home in Dixie

I sang 'Dixie' as he died
People just walked on by, as I cried
The bottle had robbed him of all his rebel pride
So I sang 'Dixie' as he died

I sang 'Dixie' as he died


I be
gan to wonder about Dwight Yoaka
m’s #1 country hit
I Sang Dixie
in the context of the antebellum
South I learned about in U.S. History recently. By 1861 slavery was firmly entrenched in the South, while
many Northerners had only a vague knowledge of it atrociousness first hand. Before I learned about
this in class I
had simply assumed Yoakum’s songs spoke of love, guitars and Cadillacs. I have always
been a fan of his so I decided to listen to the album today after reading of songs about Dixie sung by
Southerners around the time of the Civil War. Thinking also of t
he famous “rebel yell” that struck fear
into the hearts of Yankee soldiers, this too caught my attent
ion, knowing the lyrics of Yoaka
I Sang
. My imagination led me to having remembered him singing “rebel cry,” but after listening to the
song agai
n and again, I realized he was actually singing “rebel pride.”
This song, written by one of Bakersfield’s own, speaks of an old transplanted Southerner rotting away
“on this damned old LA street,”
due to
alcoholism. All he wants to do is get back home t
o Dixie. Robbed
of his rebel pride by the bottle, the dying m
an gives out his wisdom to Yoaka
m’s character
. “Run back
home to that Southern land, don’t you see what life here has done to me?” He then closes his blue
eyes, and dies in Yoakam’s arms. Wit
h death, the man’s spirit returns to his precious Dixie. My first
reaction was to take seriously this reference of reverence held by Southerners since the Civil War for
their “Southland,” their “Dixie.” At first, to me, it seemed as if Yoakam was equatin
g the Old South, the
holding South, with heaven, or at least certainly much better than Los Angeles. Looking at that
way, it was easy to assume Yoakam an undercover racist, if one assumes the worst. Admittedly, my
imagination did run away wit
h me a
s I considered that I had
admired this man’
s music, only to find him
so dismissive of those who disapprove of Southern pride that he put it to music. Unfortunately, I must
say that I even tried to rationalize away this notion that Yoakam might be a racist
because I alw
thought he was a tender
Then I started thinking deeper. This song came out in 1989, but written even before that. Even as a
figment of Yoakam’
magination, this
old man
dying of alcoholism in the 1980s
could have been
anywhere from fifty t
o a hundred years old. The dying man
, real or imagined
could not have been alive
before 1889, over two decades after the Civil War ended.
So he could not have been yearning for the
antebellum Dixie but rather the South of the
Lost C
where pride of place reigned supreme; the rest
of the country be damned!
Realizing the man was not alive during slave days, the song does not appear
offensive to me at all. Once I realized that this good ol’ boy from Dixieland just wanted to go hom
before he died, I understood it. He simply misses the life of his younger days, as he feels his own
slipping away.
This does not seem any different that someone showing reverence for “the hood,
despite its violence and oppressiveness, or another perso
n flying the flag of a different country. With all
mind, Yoakam’s other songs referencing the South, or his catchy
Streets of Bakersfield,
are not so
easily misunderstood. Even if he is thumping his chest with rebel pride in any of his songs, a f
an can
show great reverence for Yoakam’s because his tunes are oh so right!