Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lyrics of the Day

I like almost every Drive-By Truckers song, so I went into Monday's concert with no particular "must-hears." But if push came to shove and I had to name one song I really wanted to hear them play, it would have been "The Living Bubba." The song is about Gregory Dean Smalley, an Atlanta guitarist who got AIDS in the mid-1990s. As Hood describes it in this excellent article he wrote about Smalley, "He responded to his death sentence by joining several more bands and playing constantly, sometimes several nights a week." Playing was his reason to keep living.

Although the two were not very close, Smalley was clearly an inspiration to Hood. I could imagine Hood at age 60 still singing "The Living Bubba" with all the conviction he had when he first wrote it. That's a story in itself: "While out in the field behind my house, a song hit me and I ran back inside to write it down before it slipped away. I wrote it in about the same length of time it takes to play it live." But playing it live was a problem:

I was, at first, hesitant to play “The Living Bubba” live, as I really didn’t know Greg all that well and felt I had no right to write anything so personal (from his point of view, no less). But I did confide it to a few close mutual friends who were always very complimentary and all said I should play it for Greg’s Mama. In May of 1997, we played Bubbapalooza in front of a packed house that included “Mama” (as everyone affectionately called her). As we began “The Living Bubba” she walked up to the front of the stage and stared me square in the eyes as I sang Greg’s song. When it was over, she walked up on stage, threw her arms around me and said “You done my boy right.” No review or compliment that my band or me ever get will ever equal that.
Here's a sample of the lyrics:

I wake up tired and I wake up pissed
wonder how I ended up like this
I wonder why things happen like they do
but I don't wonder long cuz I got a show to do


I ain't got no political agenda
Ain't got no message for the youth of America
'cept "Wear a rubber and be careful who you screw"
and come see me next Friday cuz I got another show...

Some people stop living long before they die
Work a dead end job just to scrape on by
but I keep living just to bend that note in two
and I can't die now cuz I got another show...

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