Well, tonight's cultural exchange group at my flat must be pronounced a smashing success. We had our highest attendance yet, with six persons of mixed nationality (two Poles, one Scot)and for once everyone brought a bottle or plate to the evening. While cheese and biscuits are not especially dear, I really was beginning to get steamed at the zeal and active hands of some members.
My contribution was a probing insight into Eric Clapton's 'I Shot the Sheriff', a song which has perplexed me on and off for decades. Did the protagonist in fact shoot the deputy and create the narrative as an elaborative, jauntily paced ruse; or is he indeed being 'set-up' by the law enforcement/legal establishment and the sheriff who he admits winging (with what I image to be a Saturday Night Special)?
At first, one is swayed by the pleading tone of the lyrics, but then, subconsciously, I believe one shifts to suspicion, largely due to the faux-Jamaican accent and the load of associations with violence and that particular Caribbean nation.
When I realised I was feeling this way, I consciously recognised my in-built cultural prejudice and went back to the evidence of the crime, which admittedly, is sparse. Really, it's just one person's point of view. The song may have been better served by giving the sheriff a chorus or full verse to argue his side of the story and refute the slanderous charges against him. It could have been a Sonny and Cher 'I've Got You Girl' sort of arrangement.
Of course in the greater picture, one has to question why Eric Clapton chose to adopt a faux-Jamaican voice and the kettle drums etc. After all, he was born in Surrey, which to international readers, isn't exactly Kingston lite. It strikes me as a type of musical blackface; but then, he did record the song in the 70s, and we weren't far removed from Peter Seller's riotous turn of bigotry in The Party or Spike Milligan.
When one of the gents mentioned the song was written by Bob Marley, admittedly, it took some wind out of my argument. I asked if he was next going to tell me that John Lennon's ripping 'Cold Turkey' isn't really about the dangers of leaving Christmas leftovers a bit too long. From experience, cold turkey has had me on the run more than once (though ham is often a more likely culprit).*
*This is a joke. I know the song is about heroin. I'm not actually an idiot.
Have a favourite song? Why not leave a comment.
Stay well, Nate