I’d Like to Check You for Ticks: The Humorous World of Country Music Lyrics

Nearly any kind of music is fine with me- I truly like almost everything.  Ok, I could probably do without head banging heavy metal and super hillbilly songs.  Otherwise, I’m open.  Holding a special place in my heart is country.  Country music singers can belt out love ballads with the best of them.  There are also the angry songs.  Carrie Underwood taught us exactly what a good country girl will do if you cheat on her (hint:  say byebye to that pretty pickup truck).  What really makes me love country songs, though, is the clever lyrics.  Some of them are so ding-dang funny!

Speaking of what happens when you make country girls angry,  “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks is one of my favorites, about two friends named Mary-Ann and Wanda.  It isn’t funny so much as it is about the clever way a victim gets justice when she can’t get it from the court system.  The song puts a light-hearted spin on a serious subject:  domestic abuse.

After graduation Mary-Ann went out lookin’ for a bright new world
Wanda looked all around this town and all she found was Earl

Well it wasn’t two weeks after she got married
That Wanda started gettin’ abused
She put on dark glasses and long sleeved blouses
And make-up to cover a bruise
Well she finally got the nerve to file for divorce
She let the law take it from there
But Earl walked right through that restraining order
And put her in intensive care

I love that line, “Earl walked right through that restraining order.”  Well, duh, of course he did!  Sad commentary on a real truth:  courts are too lenient on domestic abusers.  In this case, Mary-Ann and Wanda take matters into their own hands and Earl gets his just deserts in the chorus.

Goodbye Earl, Those black-eyed peas 
They tasted all right to me, Earl
You feelin’ weak
Why don’t you lay down and sleep, Earl
Ain’t it dark
Wrapped up in that tarp, Earl?

Oh my.  Better watch yourself around Mary-Ann and Wanda.  And you might want to think twice about accepting any dinner invitations from them.  I’m just sayin’.

Going waaaaaaaay back in time is Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue.”  (Aside: arguably, this is one of the first rap songs as Cash talks through almost the entire thing)  You can watch him in the video here.

Well my daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue.”

And MaeMae thinks she had it bad with a middle name like Al—– … nevermind, I am not going to tell you, even if you beg.  I do not have a death wish.

The story goes on to tell how “Sue” was an angry young man because of his name.  He went around to different watering holes, drinking, getting into trouble, and looking for the guy who named him “Sue.”  Eventually he finds him and the two have a big knock down, drag out fight, culminating in them both pulling their guns. Great drama, right?

And he said: “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong. “

He said: “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you “Sue.'”

I’ll ruin it for ya and tell you that they end up hugging it out.  Dontcha love a happy ending?

Man, I almost forgot this one.  “Mean” by Taylor Swift is about how vulnerable – or how hateful – young girls can be.  As the mother of three girls, I have way too much experience with this topic.  (Talk about ripping a mama’s heart out of her chest – whew!)  The funniest part is really the video (click on that link up there), but the clever lyrics are worth mentioning.

Swift, as you may be aware, is famous for writing songs about true events in her life.  In “Mean,” she addresses one girl who bullied her.  This is a particularly heartbreaking stanza:

You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

There is hope, though, in the chorus:

Someday I’ll be living in a big old city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

And the finale:

And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing (ironic!) 
But all you are is mean

All you are is mean
And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life
And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean

My hands down favorite, witty country lyricist is Brad Paisley.  Or whoever writes his songs.  One of them, titled “Alcohol,” is told from the first person perspective of…Alcohol.  In it, Alcohol brags about all the stupid and funny things it can make people do, like picking fights with people and making them think someone is attractive who isn’t.

I got blamed at your wedding reception
for your best man’s embarrassing speech
and also for those naked pictures of you at the beach
I’ve influenced kings and world leaders
I helped Hemingway write like he did
and I’ll bet you a drink or two that I can make you
put that lampshade on your head (bahahahaa!)

The best part is the chorus:

And since the day I left Milwaukee
Lyncheburg Bourbon, France
Been makin a fool out of folks
just like you
and helpin white people dance – (y’all, that is funny!)
I am medicine and I am poison
I can help you up or make you fall
you had some of the best times
you’ll never remember with me
Alcohol

“Alcohol” is not, in my opinion, Paisley’s wittiest song.  My personal favorite is entitled “Ticks.”  It takes pick up lines to a whole new level.  Pretending to be “helpful,” it’s about a guy disdainful of those trying to pick up this girl in a bar.  Oh, no, he doesn’t want to do that.

I’ll keep you safe you wait and see
The only thing allowed to crawl all over you when we get there is me.
Cause I’d like to see you out in the moonlight
I’d like to kiss you way back in the sticks
I’d like to walk you through a field of wildflowers
And I’d like to check you for ticks.

Thanks for hanging out with me on this little ride. I hope you enjoyed it!  Be careful in the woods, now, ya hear?

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