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.

Song of the Week – Mama Bake A Pie (Daddy Kill A Chicken), Drive-By Truckers


There is a lot of violence in the world right now – in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and more recently Gaza. “Can’t we all just get along?”

All this fighting got me thinking about one of my favorite antiwar songs. In the early 70s country artist Tom T. Hall wrote “Mama Bake A Pie (Daddy Kill A Chicken)” as his protest of the Viet Nam war. Hall earned the nickname “The Storyteller” for songs such as his most famous – “The Harper Valley PTA.” “Mama…” is another story song that has been covered by numerous artists over the years.

Today’s SotW is the version by The Drive-By Truckers.

The song is about a guy coming home from the war after his legs have been blown off. He’s sarcastic when commenting on his sacrifice.

The war is over for me
I’ve forgotten everything except the pain
Thank you sir, and yes sir, it was worth it
For the ol’ red, white and blue

He’s hiding a bottle of whiskey under the blanket that’s covering his legs and cracking jokes to cover his embarrassment.

I can see the stewardess make over me
And ask, “Were you afraid?”
I’ll say, “Why no? I’m Superman
And couldn’t find the phone booth quite in time”
A GI gets a lot of laughs
He remembers all the funny lines

Then comes the chorus. It describes the banality of how life will go on as it always has – for everyone but him.

Mama bake a pie
Daddy kill a chicken
Your son is coming home
11:35, Wednesday night

But the real tearjerker is in the next verses when the soldier tries to predict how the girlfriend that dumped him when he went to war will react to his plight.

The letter that she wrote me said, “Goodbye”
She couldn’t wait and lots of luck
The bottle underneath the blanket
Feels just like an old friend to my touch

I know she’ll come and see me
But I bet she never once looks at my legs
Now, she’ll talk about the weather
And the dress she wore the July 4th parade
Lord, I love her and I don’t believe
This bottle’s gonna get her off my mind

That is as poignant a sentiment that you’ll hear in any song.

Mama bake a pie, daddy kill a chicken…

Enjoy… until next week.