Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NCBS Murder Ballads Project. 2. Stagger Lee pt 2

If you're not a fan of "foul" language you might want to skip today's post.

Sing a Song of Murder, has talked about the lore surrounding "Stagger Lee" before, but Nick Cave's version takes it to a different place entirely.  A forced homosexual act was probably not what the original writer of "Stagger Lee" probably had in mind.  I'm sure these lyrics never popped into his head either:

I'm a bad motherfucker don't ya know
And I'll craw over fifty good pussies 
Just to get to one fat boy's asshole

Love the Take That shirt.

From what I've read Cave took lyrical inspiration from The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler.  I'm currently trying to search out a copy that won't cost me 59.99 (used).

I think that "Stagger Lee", like "Delia's Gone" might have taken some inspiration from gangster rap, which was huge at the time of Murder Ballads.  If you don't remember the glory days of Snoop Dogg, Tupac, and uh . . .others* it involved a little of this . . .

Some of this . . .


And a lot of this

A lot of violence,  a lot of "motherfucker/motherfucking/motherfuckers" and the phrase "suck my dick".

Of course Eazy-E wasn't really suggesting that Dr. Dre get down on his knees and unbutton his fly.*1 It was more of an expression of dominance; "I'm the alpha male. You're a woman compared to me."*2

Lyrically, and through Cave's spoken word performance, "Stagger Lee" seems to be poking fun at rap's hyper-masculinity.  When Cave's Stagger Lee says "suck my dick" he really means "suck my dick."  

I stated in the previous post that Stagger Lee is the quintessential American song.  So does a "foreigner" have any right to sing it?  There's something to be said for being outside looking in.  Conservatives ranted and raved about gangster rap, and yet violence is so much at the heart of America, and American music.   It seems that only Americans have yet to accept that.

* Sorry, I'm hopelessly white.
*1 I'm really white.
*2 Lilly White

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