Federal Oversight Of Language in Songs

Chris Stuart

Greetings Bluegrass Fans,

Once again I am forced to remove the dust cover from my Underwood typewriter and report to you a plot so heinous that it caused me to look up the word heinous.

First, let me say that I am enjoying my bluegrass retirement—a golden parachute worth $50K per annum from IBMA, in return for which I agree not to write any more songs, articles, reviews, or blogs.

Combined with my income from promoters who pay me not to show up at festivals, that tidy sum means I’m quite comfortable and no longer see reason to put pen to paper or thumb-index-middle to banjo, although it may soothe you to know that I am well and spend my days ferrying tourists to Catalina Island where I perform as either Bluegrass Elvis or Bluegrass Santa depending on the season.

But back to the plot.

While we all take for granted that the government is responsible for the Kennedy assassination, the incarceration of extraterrestrials in Arizona, and the addition of fluoride into 120 oz Cokes, what I am about to relate is so insidious, so treacherous, so threatening to our bluegrass community, that I am risking my retirement in order to expose it.

Simply put, a government task force has been formed called the Federal Oversight Of Language in Songs committee. This innocuous-sounding cabal is tasked with the job of correcting grammar in songs.

Including bluegrass!

I shudder as I type. Or maybe it’s because the window is open and the temperature in San Diego has suddenly dipped to 68 degrees. Just a second.

Where was I? Oh yes. As the saying goes—when they came for Justin Bieber I said nothing, but when they came for Jimmy Martin, it was too late.

The first report from the committee has come out and lists among the songs now corrected:

  • Eric Clapton – Lie Down Sally
  • Janis Joplin – Bobby McGee and I
  • Bob Dylan – Lie, Lady, Lie
  • Rolling Stones – I Have Not Received Any Satisfaction
  • Fats Domino – Is That Not a Shame?
  • The Four Seasons – Walk As If You Were a Man
  • Neil Diamond – from Play Me: Songs she sang to me, Songs she brang to me.

Okay, I can see the committee’s point on the last one, but will we think it’s okay when the government insists on changing these bluegrass classics?

  • I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow – I May, Perhaps, Not Labor Tomorrow
  • Why You Been Gone So Long? – Why Have You Been Absent For Such a Long Period?
  • No Mother or Dad – Neither Mother Nor Dad
  • Hold Watcha Got – You May Retain What You Have
  • I Don’t Want Your Ramblin’ Letters – I Do Not Care to Receive Your Prolix Missives

Correcting grammar is just the first step in the government’s agenda.

The second will be to enforce strict enunciation and accents on anyone attempting to sing a bluegrass song—thus shifting bluegrass dominance from southern states, where people sing proper bluegrass vowels, to states where people sound like six o’clock news anchors attempting to read the names of eastern European countries.

So, what can we do besides hold up signs expressing our displeasure so the drones can see?

I have in mind a coordinated campaign of slowing the work of the committee down by flooding it with songs that need to be corrected. A hillbilly filibuster. A song sequester.

Because most bluegrass songs are already grammatical, we need to change those songs and send them to the committee so their work will slow to a crawl until a majority of banjo players can be elected to congress and put an end to this foolishness.

You might be able to come up with your own, but I offer these as a starting point:

  • If I Loose
  • He Will Set You’re Fields on Fire
  • Hey; Hey: Hey
  • Whose That Knocking at My Door?
  • Whom Will Sing For Me?
  • Its Mighty Dark to Travel
  • Cabin’ of Love

Please pass this along to ten other people today, April 1, so we can build momentum and stop the Federal Oversight of Language in Songs committee before they bring down our beloved bluegrass language.

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About the Author

Chris Stuart

Chris Stuart is a writer and songwriter living in San Diego. He was the 2008 recipient of the IBMA Print Media Person of the Year award, co-writer of the 2009 IBMA Song of the Year, and past winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting contest in bluegrass and gospel categories. You can follow him on Twitter @cvstuart, on Facebook, and at www.chrisstuart.com. On Tuesdays you can find him having fish tacos at Roberto’s in Del Mar.