Song of the Week – I Used to Be a Cop, Drive-By Truckers

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

There are dozens of songs I like by Drive-By Truckers.  Today’s SotW is one of my favorites – “I Used to Be a Cop” – from their 2011 album, Go-Go Boots.

No, I’m not trying to be political.  The song isn’t about police brutality.  It’s about a damaged guy that can’t seem to overcome his demons and keep his life on track. 

I got scars on my back from the way my Daddy raised me.
I used to have a family until I got divorced.
I’ve gone too far from the things that could save me.
I used to be a cop, but they kicked me off the force.
I used to be a cop, ’till they kicked me off the force.

He screws up every opportunity he’s had and especially regrets losing his job as a cop.  He loses his wife and family, his car, and laments that he was too small to play college football.  After all of that, he still can’t figure out how to put his broken life back together and move forward.

Used to have a wife, but she just couldn’t deal
with the anger and the tension that was welling inside of me.
Sometimes late at night, I circle ’round the house
I look through the window and I remember how it used to be.
I look through the windows and I remember how it used to be.

What I dig most about this track is the groove.  On the blog 95 North… The Newspaper, writer D Stefanski sketches it like this:

The song is lit by a moving, fluid baseline and streaks of dark guitar.  There is the occasional major chord triumph during the bridge, but only briefly, as it serves to celebrate past experiences of the character, not the present, nor future prospects.  This is when we learn he used to play football, and that the police academy “was the only thing” he was good at. In contrast, the dark verses are filled with foreboding, twisted tales of a life that’s disintegrated.  Classic tune from the Truckers, indeed.  Almost feels like it could’ve been featured in the movie “Taxi Driver”.

The last two minutes of the song is the band jamming over the main riff.  It is both haunting and beautiful.

Enjoy… until next week.

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