Uh, hey, Joe… you’re a sociopath.

On the one hand, I’m disappointed that, as a woman, Cher thought it was ok to cover “Hey Joe.”  On the other hand, since her version is as terrible as the lyrical content, I suppose I’ll let it slide.

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.

You know what else isn’t cool, Joe?  Premeditated murder.  Attempting to possess another person (“my old lady”).  Fleeing the country to avoid prosecution.

Up front: I think, musically, “Hey Joe” is a brilliant song.  For the sake of this article, I am focusing on the version by The Leaves (as it seems to be the first) and that by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (as it is the most famous).  On both, the guitars wail and the intensity is palpable.  The chord progression is simple and awesome.

However, the lyrical content is appalling.  Watch The Leaves’ video–women clap merrily along as the eponymous Joe takes a gun to his lover and shoots her.  In the Hendrix version (which is the version I’m, in theory, quoting lyrics from), the song contains the line  “Shoot her one more time again, baby!”  So not only is Joe killing his lover, he’s mutilating her corpse.

Of course, it’s ok, because, here in the USA we deal swiftly with music with violent under-/over-tones.  That’s why Tipper Gore was so active about making sure nobody listened to violent or sexual lyricsAccording to her, “this change in popular culture co-existed with the breakdown of the nuclear family. When the nuclear family started to decay, there was also a breakdown in the immunization system to evil. Since children today lack the stable family structure of past generations, they are more vulnerable to role models and authority figures outside established patriarchal institutions. I see the family as a haven of moral stability, while popular music – e.g. rock music – is a poisonous source infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle.”

Oh wait, I forgot.  Gore is mostly focusing on rap and metal in the ’80s, whereas “Hey Joe” came out in the mid-’60s, so I guess the nuclear family hadn’t decayed yet, since she didn’t notice the change for 20 years.  But nevermind that, we dealt with it appropriately by covering it at least 12 times in 1966 alone.  In fact, Wikipedia suggests (quite probably) that it has been covered hundreds of times.  Which is somewhat of an understatement, since it was essentially covered by 6,346 people all at once one day in Poland, earning participants a Guiness World Record.  Amazingly, not a single source I looked at, including Wikipedia, cited any controversy over the lyrics.  Apparently we have no qualms with men who kill women just for sleeping with someone else.

I do not believe in censorship.  I do believe, however, that we should stop willingly and unquestioningly promoting violence, particularly against women.  Not everyone who hears “Hey Joe” will become a murderer.  By the more pervasive the idea is in our cultural consciousness, the more likely it is to manifest itself in reality.

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!

Published in: on 16 July 2011 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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