S y d n e y T r a d s

Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum

Thinking Right About Pop Culture: Don Cook and John Barlow Jarvis – Born & Raised in Black & White

What follows are programme notes for the “Conservative Song” segment of Radio Carpe Diem compiled by Dominic Giemza. The notes were produced for a broadcast of Monday, 30 August 2010, 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.

Black vs. White

Background

The Highwayman – Born & Raised in Black & White

Today we rally cry against moral relativism. Here is a classic Country ballad about good and bad and right and wrong, a man’s song brimming with a decisive morality which shuns weak emotion and makes the case against moral relativism beautifully.

This song was recorded by country supergroup The Highwayman – which consisted Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, the late Waylon Jennings and the late great Johnny Cash. It was written by Don Cook, and John Barlow Jarvis and also recorded by Conservative country due Brooks & Dunn (who provided campaign music for G.W. Bush and the Republican Party).

The song is a moral fable of two brothers told from the perspective of one that is condemned, sentenced to death for murder. He revisits his life from childhood and contrasts himself with his brother who has followed a different path. Whilst through life he has rejected him at this moment of mortality he looks to his ‘good’ brother for prayer and comfort and the long forsaken ‘good’ brother forgives him and answers the call.

Notes for the Discussion

There are no conservative nuggets here as the song is one whole mother lode of Conservatism – anti liberal, anti- relativist and so not post modern. It’s more Jesse James than Jacques Derrida! The first verse seems innocuous and yet it sets up the moral choices that figure strongly in the lyric.

The wind blows hard across the Texas plains,
Makes some people go insane,
While others quietly pray for rain,
That’s where we came from.

Here the land is common denominator for our two protagonists they both come from the Texas plains. You know where this is heading – no excuses regarding environmental factors, no ‘cop outs’, these men were raised together and they made their choices and followed their chosen path in life. Even here the stark choice is being set up – do you find the hope that prayer brings in a tough environment that is against you (for “rain” and ultimately for salvation) or do you let your environment drive you insane?

The second verse introduces our two protagonists (two boys playing in the sun) and straight away comes to another moral choice. One plays with books and obeys his mother. One plays with guns and runs away when faced with authority. Clearly from little things big things grow – especially when childhood insolence blossoms into delinquency. The song soon nails its colours to the mast:

In the Christian sense of wrong and right,
We were born and raised in black and white.

This song is about Christian morality a morality that affects childhood into adulthood:

One learned to pray,
One learned to fight.

We soon learn that the absence of hope was devastating for our ‘bad’ brother:

I had no dreams, I had no plans,
But a gun felt good in my right hand,
The warden asked “How come you killed that man?”
I said “I don’t know why.”

No plans or dreams but instant gratification detached from any sense of responsibility. But as usual – when the ultimate price must be paid, the “bad” brother turns to his maker and the forsaken good brother:

They offered me my last request,
I asked my mortal soul be blessed,
By someone close to me.

Although we have a dramatic moment of the brothers meeting of the ‘good’ coming with “trembling hands” there is no sympathy or pathos no false victimhood here just a realisation that you roll the dice and stoically take the justice that comes:

Don’t waste your tears on me tonight,
We were born and raised in black and white,
I chose the dark, you chased the light.

For dramatic effect the first verse is again repeated almost as if its the beginning of another story like the cycle that is the great Elvis classic “In the Ghetto.” For the cycle of good and evil is like the cycle of life and death – it is repeated again and again, with the same wrongs and rights and only death to provide resolution. Texas is tough country and you either find virtue and strength to carry on or you fall by the wayside. So it is with the trials and tribulations of life. So listeners which paths will you choose?

Lyrics

The wind blows hard across the Texas plains,
Makes some people go insane,
While others quietly pray for rain,
That’s where we came from.

Two boys playin’ in the burnin’ sun,
One with books, one with guns,
Momma calls but just one comes,
The other one runs.

In the Christian sense of wrong and right,
We were born and raised in black and white,
One learned to pray, one loved to fight,
We were born and raised in black and white,
We were born and raised in black and white.

Brother took to the Gospel road,
Spent his whole life savin’ souls,
When he looked at me his blood ran cold,
He didn’t even try.

I had no dreams, I had no plans,
But a gun felt good in my right hand,
The warden asked “How come you killed that man?”
I said “I don’t know why.”

Welcome home said the hot moon light,
We were born and raised in black and white,
One lives to pray, one prays for life,
We were born and raised in black and white,
We were born and raised in black and white.

Some one handed me a cigarette,
They offered me my last request,
I asked my mortal soul be blessed,
By someone close to me.

He came to me with trembling hands,
He swore he’d never understand,
I said it’s just what life had planned,
It’s destiny.

Don’t waste your tears on me tonight,
We were born and raised in black and white,
I chose the dark, you chased the light,
We were born and raised in black and white,
We were born and raised in black and white.

The wind blows hard across the Texas plains,
Makes some people go insane,
While others quietly pray for rain.

– Dominic Giemza

The writer is a legal practitioner and the co-host of Carpe Diem Radio’s regular segment: the “Conservative Song” . 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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