Eric Clapton, you guys.
I know it’s hard to believe from a guy who’s built his entire career around cultural appropriation while being so racist he inspired the Rock Against Racism protest movement in the ’70s, but Clapton’s kind of a jerk. If he wasn’t off the deep end before, COVID has sent him completely off.
To catch you up if you haven’t kept up with the Clapton-gets-medical-advice-from-Facebook news, first he released an anti-lockdown, anti-mask protest song last December with noted coronavirus apologist Van Morrison. He claimed it was about saving live music but the anti-mask part kinda blew a hole in that. Then, to further undercut his excuse, he said in July that he’ll refuse to play shows that require proof of vaccines, which… I mean, that’s a weird way to save live music, right? By not playing music live?
Anyway, it’s gotten worse. He’s releasing another song. So in his honor, join me as we venture through five of the dumbest, most ill-advised songs ever recorded.
Eric Clapton — “This Has Gotta Stop”
That’s right. Clapton wrote and released an anti-vaccine song, complete with imagery of hypnotized people and puppeteers in the video. He’s blown right through “crazy Facebook uncle” into the realm of “regular Alex Jones listener.”
So he’s opposed to lockdowns, he’s opposed to masks and now he’s opposed to vaccines. What exactly does he propose we do? We don’t all have a gigantic estate we can sequester ourselves in. Though at this rate, he’ll probably release a song denying COVID-19 even exists by the end of the year. Or he’ll end up the latest in an increasingly long list of ironic deaths.
Toby Keith — “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)”
This is a song gloating about killing people.
Remember when Tipper Gore lost her mind when Black people made music about killing people in the context of explaining the inescapable violence in their communities and lives? We ended up with those dumb parental advisory stickers? Well Toby Keith can sing, “Now this nation that I love has fallen under attack/ A mighty sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back/ Soon as we could see it clearly through our big black eye/ Man, we lit up your world like the Fourth of July” and that’s cool. Because it’s cool if it’s white people celebrating the government killing people overseas.
As you might imagine, this is a post-9/11 revenge song. If you’re too young to remember, it was wholly encouraged to be super racist against people from the Middle East, Muslims—and for some reason, Sikhs—for years. Then the war he was so excited about went on for 20 years. Thousands of American soldiers were killed, tens of thousands were seriously wounded, and well over 100,000 Afghan soldiers and civilians died.
Whoo! America! Courtesy of the red, white and blue!
The Entire ’80s — “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Yes, I credited this song to the entire ’80s. It features an ensemble including Duran Duran, Boy George, and Bananarama. There’s no more appropriate way to describe it.
This one was actually good-intentioned. [Gokhman note: And it’s got Bono, so shut up. It’s a good song!] A dude put together the biggest British acts of the ’80s to raise awareness of the Ethiopian famine and it turned into the top-selling single in U.K. history until Elton John kicked Marilyn Monroe out of “Candle in the Wind.”
The problem… well, I mean, it’s called “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for God’s sake. It’s an extremely patronizing song. For example, here’s a verse by Sting and (with apologizes to our illustrious editor Roman Gokhman) Bono: “And the Christmas bells that ring there/ Are the clanging chimes of doom/ Well tonight thank God it’s them/ Instead of you.” [Gokhman note: I don’t care. I like this song, OK?]
Also about two thirds of Ethiopians are Christian so, yeah, I think they knew it was Christmas, you paternalistic jerks.
Ted Nugent — “Jailbait”
Nugent was 32 when he wrote these lyrics: “Well, I don’t care if you’re just thirteen/ You look too good to be true/ I just know that you’re probably clean/ There’s one little thing I gotta do to you.”
“But wait,” his defenders are probably shouting at their monitors. “The narrator gets arrested at the end of the song!”
In real life, Nugent, at age 30, had himself declared legal guardian to a 17-year-old girl because he wasn’t legally allowed to marry her. Ted Nugent is a straight-up pedophile.
Tim McGraw — “Indian Outlaw”
This was McGraw’s first song to make the charts and, boy oh boy, is it racist.
McGraw, who is not even slightly Native American, wrote and released a song where he sings as a Native American. In it he basically compresses every stereotype into one short and sloppily written ode to ignorance. It’s incredible. I’ve been pulling out key verses of the other songs but in this case it’s basically just every word of the song. For example:
“All my friends call me Bear Claw/ The Village Chieftain is my paw-paw/ He gets his orders from my maw-maw/ She makes him walk the line.”
“You can find me in my wigwam/ I’ll be beatin’ on my tom-tom/ Pull out the pipe and smoke you some/ Hey and pass it around.”
“‘Cause I’m an Indian outlaw/ Half Cherokee and Choctaw/ My baby she’s a Chippewa/ She’s one of a kind.”
That’s not me cherrypicking lyrics to highlight how bad it is. That’s the first verse and the chorus. It’s literally the beginning of the song.
He went on to have 53 singles make the Billboard Hot 100 in the 27 years since that introduction to a mainstream audience.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.