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Retro Redux: Tea Party Reminiscent Of Johnny Cash

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Recently I've been reading a lot of news stories about the Tea Party movement, and it made me think about the late Johnny Cash.

That statement might sound like a head-scratcher, but before you jump to any conclusions, let me offer a quick explanation. There's a lot of information out there about the Tea Party movement, but most of it seems confusing and contradictory. As near as I can tell, it includes people from almost every part of the political spectrum, including some who are normally bitter enemies, but they all have one thing in common — they're dissatisfied with the way things are.

Keep in mind that I haven't suddenly turned into a political analyst of any sort, so those who are for — or against — the Tea Party need to understand that when it comes to describing the movement, I'm speaking from ignorance. (A place I often inhabit.) But still, it is a little confusing to try and make sense of the movement's search for an identity.

I also have to admit that any connection between Johnny Cash and the Tea Party pretty much exists only in my noggin. After all, he died back in 2003. But he's been mentioned a lot lately because we just passed what would have been his 78th birthday, so when I began thinking about all the confusion surrounding the Tea Party, an old song of his came to mind.

Back in the Sixties, when folk music was rising in popularity and seemed to be everywhere, a songwriter named Jack Clement wrote a satirical song about a fictional singing group. Johnny Cash recorded the piece for his album, Everybody Loves a Nut, and it surprised a lot of people by becoming the breakout hit, rising nearly to the top of the charts.

Clement actually wrote several of the tunes on that album, including the always popular "Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog," but the biggest hit was that song about the folk-singers, "The One on the Right Is on the Left" (clip). It told the story of a promising singing group that faced difficulties because the members couldn't reconcile their differences.

Although the song is over forty years old, it carries a message that might still be valuable to some. It's pretty clearly spelled out in one of the verses:

'They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall'

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About Big Geez

  • Interesting idea Geez, but somehow I doubt that Johnny would’ve signed up with the Palin crowd. He was a rebel alright, but definitely of a different stripe than that bunch of loonies….


  • …besides he’d probably be kicked out anyway for covering a Sheryl Crow on his latest release.


  • Funny comments, Glen — but if you really thought I was suggesting that Johnny would have joined the Tea Party, then I sure didn’t make the point I was reaching for.

  • Cash would have seen through the b.s., no doubt about that.

  • Cash was a good kind rebel, like Merle Haggard.

    He was no phony.

  • I took your point Geez, but couldn’t resist pointing out the obvious.

  • Big Geez,

    Funny and enlightening! I liked the way you wrote about the, Teas, without shoving you own political convictions in the for-front of the article.
    Johny Cash, was a rebel and that’s what I loved about his songs; he also wrote a wonderful song about the way we treated the, Native Americans, in this country. This footage of Cash is raw and real.
    Please remember, Wounded Knee, and all who died there.

  • TonyH

    Johnny Cash was a republican. Do some research and younwould find this out. Although, its very clear he towed the “independent” line.

  • JamieB

    Big Geez, I like how you made a point without raking folks over the coals. I would like to answer your underlying question of what the Tea Party is about in my opinion. I think they are simply saying, “smaller government and less spending”. In my opinion, this is what makes it unique. Rather than harping on specific policies, which all people will never agree on, they’re reiterating exactly what the original Tea Party was all about – quit taxing us without allowing us to have a say and quit telling us everything to do. It seems we’ve possibly forgotten the old saying that one’s rights end when they infringe on someone elses. The original Tea Party was not just about taxation; it’s just that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think Cash would definitely roll this way…i.e., “stay out of my life big government and let me find my own way”. It’s ironic that I often find that both sides of the coin are rebels and if they’d stay away from the small stuff, they’d find they agree.

  • That’s about the clearest explanation I’ve seen to date, Jamie. Thanks for the input.

  • Big Geez,

    The original Tea Party was held to oppose taxation without representation, hardly what we have today.

    In addition, hearing that the State of Virginia is poised to reject the current health care bill suggests that we, in fact, do need a federal government.

    The government can protect and bring consistency to the rights of the people, when the people remain involved with their government.

    :)sorry, I just had to add my two cents.

  • John Vance

    Interesting article – interesting song. Just goes to show political strains have always been around.

    Now for my shameless two cents on an earlier comment: “taxation without representation, hardly what we have today.”
    –If you think we are represented by those making and enacting the laws (which ultimately cause us to pay taxes), you must be a high paying lobbyist.

  • No, just a high paying taxpayer.