S y d n e y T r a d s

Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum

Thinking Right About Pop Culture: Aaron Tippin – You Gotta Stand for Somethin’

What follows are programme notes for the “Conservative Song” segment of Radio Carpe Diem compiled by Luke Torrisi. The notes were produced for a broadcast of last year and form the basis of a live on-air discussion about conservative and traditionalist themes that can be inferred from items of popular music. Radio Carpe Diem is Australia’s only paleoconservative and traditionalist radio programme and can be accessed online or free to air at 88.9FM at 8:00pm to 10:00pm Mondays (Sydney, Australia). Readers’ comments are welcome here at SydneyTrads. Listeners are encouraged to tune in and engage in the discussion.

The Permanent Things

Aaron Tippin - You Gotta Stand for SomethinIntroduction

Aaron Tippin is a country singer famous for working class patriotic songs. He has released a number of songs in honour of the fighting men of the U.S. armed forces and a particularly patriotic number after September 11, “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly”. He used to work nights in a factory then drive 60 miles to Nashville to work on his music whilst developing his career. He is in a sense still a “Southern Gentleman”.

Notes for the Discussion

The song “You Gotta Stand for Somethin’” may suffer from bad grammar, but that is about where the faults end. It is a song about what mark we leave behind in life, and is sung from the perspective of a father addressing his son. The video clip to the song makes this very clear, as Aaron sings to a boy with his guitar on the front porch of their home. Indeed when he sings, he does so from his “front porch lookin’ in” so to speak.

Aaron is trying to convey the collected wisdom of the generations to his son, and facilitate his being a man in the world. The video is peppered with flashbacks to the singer’s own father – praying, in military uniform etc. This is a song laced with Conservative motifs.

It opens with an appraisal of the singer’s father as a man who wasn’t exceptional – not a hero – but was a man who always stood up for what was right. The implication is that such men are becoming rarer, and what used to be deemed normal, manly behaviour is now heroically exceptional. He’s also careful to point out that his father “didn’t like trouble”, drawing for us a sharp distinction between the gun toting, aggressive nationalist and the loving, upright, Southern Gentleman.

The singer warns of the consequences of not standing for anything – you become a vacuum, something fills the void, hence: “you’ve gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for anything / You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string.” Independence is here seen as a virtue that walks hand in hand with being a principled man. There are shades here of criticism of the managerial state – the puppet master. Showing his working class roots, the song suggests that you are better off without material wealth if you have to pay for it by backing down on your principles:

Now we might have been better off or owned a bigger house,
If Daddy had done more givin’ in or a little more backing down,
But we always had plenty just living his advice,
Whatever you do today you’ll have to sleep with tonight,

This anti-materialist lyric suggests that food for the soul is a priceless commodity. The family never went without, they had ‘enough’, but what they gained instead was a strength of character worth handing down through the generations. There is also an old fashioned notion about reputation and family name. A strong Southern Conservative concept tied to a code of honour. The lyric reeks of moral order, the upholding of which allows one to ‘sleep at night’ suggesting that one’s conscience – the ‘hotline’ to God – isn’t troubled.

Before leaving us with the wonderfully instructive lyrics of the chorus another couple of times, Tippin tells his son (and us): “now I know that things are different than they were in Daddy’s days / But I still believe what makes a man really hasn’t changed.” What a wonderful pronouncement of the conservative principle of the Permanent Things: the enduring, timeless moral order that eschews trends and moral relativism. Tippin is trying to give us some gentle encouragement to stick to behaviours we know are right, regardless of what the world throws at us, no matter how different we feel compared to the changed world around us.

An many ways, this profoundly working class song is indeed also very aristocratic and seeks to remind us of the importance of retaining the moral order and ensuring that the generations after us follow suit.

Lyrics:

Now Daddy didn’t like trouble, but if it came along,
Everyone that knew him knew which side that he’d be on,
He never was a hero, or this county’s shinin’ light,
But you could always find him standing up,
For what he thought was right.

He’d say you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything,
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string,
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name,
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

Now we might have been better off or owned a bigger house,
If Daddy had done more givin’ in or a little more backing down,
But we always had plenty just living his advice,
Whatever you do today you’ll have to sleep with tonight.

He’d say you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything,
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string,
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name,
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

Now I know that things are different than they were in Daddy’s days,
But I still believe what makes a man really hasn’t changed.

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything,
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string,
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name,
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

– Luke Torrisi

The writer is a legal practitioner and the host of Carpe Diem Radio. The above notes were drafted for a live and on air debate about conservative and traditionalist themes which can be found in popular music. Listeners can access Radio Carpe Diem either on air at 2RSR 88.9FM in the greater Sydney region, each Monday between 8:00pm and 10:00pm, or streaming live via TuneIn.com. Feedback is welcome.

SydneyTrads is the internet portal and communication page of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum: an association of young professionals who form part of the Australian paleoconservative, traditionalist conservative, and independent right.
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