Steve Earle’s “John Walker’s Blues” Riles Country Fans

from the yee-hah dept.

Maverick country star Steve Earle has recorded a song in honor of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. Titled “John Walker’s Blues,” the tune compares Lindh to Jesus, speaks favorably of Islam’s teachings, and generally goes out of its way to annoy the hell out of the conservative country music mainstream. Cool.

28 Responses to “Steve Earle’s “John Walker’s Blues” Riles Country Fans”

  1. bg Says:

    why do people get offended when someone questions the status quo?or have we became a country if you dont agree with the majority you should be shot.john walker blues does question good taste but mr earle right to write this song is what makes the united states the best country in history of the world, and yes john walker is no hero to me, but he was an american who expressed his opinion by joining the taliban,i hope no one will ever take away our right to beleive whatever we choose to beleive,not just what the goverment stands for.perhaps bad taste is the only thing mr earle is guilty of.i am just glad he didnt write a song about the 9-11 hijackers making them heroes.

  2. Adam Says:

    Hi,

    I totally agree witht he above comment by “BG”. Steve Earle does give the listener a startling reminder of what can happen when (a seemingly) small issue is left untouched.

    Mr. Earle is one of the first people in the industry to challenge the ‘American’ way of thinking and lifestyle.

    I, as an Amercan, totally agree with him. Our lifestyles are leading us to a path of death and destruction.

    We’ve got to wake up and Embrace reality – realize that we are insignificant in the sight of God and humble ourselves.

    The melodious verse (from the Koran I think) that was played in the end (Chapter 49 verse 17) I looked up and the meaning is really powerful.

    It really does seem like the word of God. Anyone with me?

  3. Jeff Jr Says:

    Hi,

    I think MR earle has the real OPEN mind.. to think “out side the Box” about events.

    HE is a brave man & truely a FREE man & a FREE American !

    For those of you who don’t like his work …. read on >>

    For example ALL Major newpapers will disagree with me & so will 98% of the Americans on the following lines >>> after reading, if you disagree than I have made my point !

    Has anyone heard of “The Abraham Stern Group” or the “Stern Gang” ? I suppose NOT !

    Named after one of the early graduates of “CIA terrorism academy,” Abraham Stern.

    Stern & his gang use to blowup political targets in central London, in 1930s – 1940s, for the Jewish “cause” >> “Israel”

    So NO need to wonder or suggest that Islam or Quran teaches “terrorism” … and that is how the palestinian learned how to blowup things…

    Is it possible that palestinians just studied the history of their enemy ?

    And it would be DUMB to think that “THEY” hate American freedom …if “THEY” hate anything then it must be the fact that this is 21st centry and they are NOT FREE …

    Thanks “America” for voting “NO TO FREEDOM FOR PALESTINIANS” .. ” 26 TIMES IN 50 YEARS”

    I think NO ONE should be living in ANY kind of Camps and after Sept. 11 America needs to think that too … LIVE FREE But LET OTHERS LIVE FREE AS WELL .

    Islam says ” the freedom of one ends where other’s start, for less than that would not be freedom but injury ”

    Side note : There is only ONE good “Ivy League caliber” place to learn terrorism … “CIA” … now the training Camps can be funded by the drug money & even the entire training program can be subcontracted to other less powerful but equally capable (at least in their area) agencies … as in John Walker or taliban case … the lucky contractor agency was the pakistani ISI.

  4. Johnny Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Jeff Jr.

  5. Tom Wynn Says:

    Even if you’re a Steve Earle fan, and I am, you’ve got to admit that it was a serious lapse of taste to release “John Walker’s Blues” in September, almost on the one year anniversary of 9 -11. What if Ted Nugent had written a song called “James Earl Ray’s Blues” and released it on, or even close to, Martin Luther King Day? Would that be cool?

  6. Chris G Says:

    I had the pleasure of seeing Steve Earle live at a folk festival a few years ago with no backup band, just him and his guitar, and it was one of the most powerful performances I have ever seen by anyone. The man may write simplistic songs, but it is not as if Springsteen or Dylan were ever very literary or well educated, and look how beloved they are. The function of the artist, as opposed to a mere entertainer, is to brush up against the boundaries of society and push them outwards. If you listen to Steve himself, you would find out that he never claimed to condone John Walker’s actions, but the government’s attempts to blame this young man for terror attacks against the US are complete baloney. He was a scapegoat and sent to jail for purely political reasons. He never betrayed his country, he merely fought in a foreign civil war, something many Americans have done before and will continue to do in the future.

    Also, if the song is actually listened to and heard, it is apparent that it does NOT compare Lindh to Jesus.

    Note to Tom Wynn, Ted Nugent is a maniacally ignorant reactionary, and would never write a political song because all he cares about is shooting animals and ‘poontang’. And James Earl Ray was a rightfully jailed racist killer who, unlike Lindh, actually killed an American citizen. I suggest taking a few introductory courses in critical reasoning before you make such spurious and idiotic comparisons.

    Thank you

  7. Tom Wynn Says:

    Chris G – You and I can disagree without calling each other “idiotic,” certainly. Bad form is bad form, whether you’re right or wrong.

    I too have seen Steve Earle live, and been touched by his music, just I have enjoyed Ted Nugent‘s music, live and on record, for years. They both play guitar well –big deal. They also talk out of their asses a lot of the time, and I see no reason to defend either of them, as neither is what could be called the most insightful guy to ever pick up a guitar. Nor are they “artists” of the lofty sort you envision Earle to be. They are “mere performers,” making outrageous comments to sell product for the record companies they work for. Nugent’s audience tends to be middle-of-the-road to right wing, so he makes inflammatory statements against free immigration, Janet Reno, and the government’s enemy of the week. Steve Earle’s core audience tends to be more left wing, and increasingly European, so he sells them songs about John Walker. “Give the people what they want…” is an old dictum, and has little to do with free speech or abstract notions of artistic relevance.

    Let’s not mince words here – John Walker and James Earl Ray are both self-righteous swine who caused good people harm through violence and their support of evil people. Just because Walker is currently more fashionable in some disturbing little circles than Ray doesn’t make his actions any nobler, nor any more worthy of glorification through song. I think Steve Earle would agree with me on some level. He has said on several occasions that the song does not glorify Walker and, while I think “John Walker’s Blues” comes a lot closer to doing just that than he cares to admit, or possibly even realizes. I’ll take his word on that for now. My issue wasn’t even with his release of the song – he has a right to say whatever he wants to say, no matter how ham-fisted and misguided I might think it is. I simply think his timing sucked. And it did.

    …and while we’re on the subject, when did I make any statement about Earle comparing Walker to Jesus Christ? I might note from time to time that Steve Earle looks a little like a wine-drunk Jesus back from his sixth trip to the buffet, but I don’t recall bringing this up in my post.

    Thanks

  8. Tom Wynn Says:

    …but for the record, to back up jbc’c initial point, while Earle doesn’t compare Lindhe to Christ, he does depict Lindhe comparing himself to Christ:

    “And if I should die, I’ll rise up to the sky

    Just like Jesus…”

    Take that however you choose to take it.

  9. Naz Says:

    Having just heard Steve Earles song, ‘John Walker Blues,’ I do have a few comments to add.

    Steve earle wasn’t comparing Lindhe or himself to Jesus, upon whom be peace. He was drawing a comparison between the martyrs and Jesus. As Muslims believe that those who die in the cause of Allah are rewarded with paradise. And Jesus, as the Muslims believe is with Allah until he descends for his second coming. This is a fundemental belief of Muslims.

    I personally am not a country music or blues fan, I grew up listening to Jazz and Hip hop, but I admire the honesty and courage of Steve Earle, to release something he feels needs to be said, and it should encourage non-muslims to really look at Islam without all the negative bias from the media.

    Peace and Guidance.

  10. RR Says:

    Tom Wynn ascribes the profit motive, and only that, to Steve Earle in writing this song. I believe that someone at Artemis Records had suggested that Steve make a “political” record initially and John Walker’s Blues was one of the songs. The controversy regarding the song erupted months before the record was released. The timing of the release of the album (the whole body of work not just a single song) was perhaps unfortunate but certainly not meant as the affront that many of the more hysterical media types portrayed.

    Just a couple of points:

    The song is about a young man (4 months different in age than Steve’s own son) and that man’s beliefs. At no point does Steve Earle espouse the rightness or wrongness of those beliefs.

    The basis of Christianity is that believers will rise to heaven – just like Jesus. Muslims have a similar belief and they also believe that Jesus was a prophet. The whole line, by the way is ” just like Jesus, peace be upon him”.

    Unless you have heard it from Mr. Earle himself it is extremely speculative to be arguing about whether or not he was depicting Lindh comparing himself to Jesus, but that means that the artist has done his work well doesn’t it? The whole point is inspire dialog.

    I believe that what angered the love it or leave it types the most was the fact that the song in some way re-humanized Lindh. He clearly was not involved in the events of September 11th and he clearly was not linked to Al Qaedi and he clearly was not Osama bin Laden and yet he had been given the persona of all that in the media. And Steve Earle had the cajones to say that maybe the picture in the media wasn’t the whole truth. Shame on him.

  11. Travis Says:

    I think he wrote it to piss everybody off. He also claimed to be a Christian at the concert I saw him in Houston, and sang the praises of Tim Robbins’ politics. Then on CMT he denied to be a Christian. I believe he doesn’t have a solid opinion on anything and he liked the publicity and didn’t care who he pissed off in the process. He’s in the middle of a shit storm because he put himself there. Guess he likes selling records in Berkley better than at UofH. But, hey just as long as someones money keeps coming in, right?

  12. Travis Says:

    I think he wrote it to piss everybody off. He also claimed to be a Christian at the concert I saw him in Houston, and sang the praises of Tim Robbins’ politics. Then on CMT he denied to be a Christian. I believe he doesn’t have a solid opinion on anything and he liked the publicity and didn’t care who he pissed off in the process. He’s in the middle of a shit storm because he put himself there. Guess he likes selling records in Berkley better than at UofH. But, hey just as long as someones money keeps coming in, right?

  13. Debbie Riall Says:

    I just heard on CMT Steve Earle’s explanation for his heart-rending musical rendition about the motivation behind John Walker’s “misguided” declaration of war on his own country. It seems that the poor terrorist can blame all his troubles on the fact that his parents split up while he was off in the middle east learning how to kill Americans. What a crock. A lot of people come from broken homes. They don’t take up arms against their own country.

    I don’t think this is about freedom of speech. I think it’s about common sense. Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should do a thing.

  14. Eric Says:

    Firstly, how could anyone accuse someone who recorded a bluegrass album of releasing music solely for profit.

    Secondly, John Walker took up arm’s against the Northern Alliance (AKA the drug cartels who had their operations shut down when the Taliban took power), not the USA. It was not until the United States alligned itself with the Northern Alliance that Walker found himself fighting the US. I do not support Walker, but I like Mr. Earle do feel sympathetic for a young kid who did something stupid.

  15. Tom Wynn Says:

    “Firstly, how could anyone accuse someone who recorded a bluegrass album of releasing music solely for profit…”

    Coming from Louisville, KY, the home pf the International Bluegrass Music Association, I can see how much money is flying around the Bluegrass scene, and, to put it mildly, few “name” bluegrass artists are hurting for money. Nor are the record companies and promoters that spend thousands of dollars promoting these artists at the IBMA convention – only one of many festivals and conventions that see bigtime record company expenditures. Maybe it isn’t Garth Brooks-type money, but not all these guys could make even the money they are in bluegrass were they to try competing in the mainstream country arena. A big boy can buy a lot of buscuits by establishing himself in a niche market like bluegrass music, and it sure beats the hell out of getting a real job.

  16. RLee VonHettich Says:

    Right On!!!!

  17. lee chen Says:

    I think steve earle is the national hero because he is doing what he believes in and I think he is not a traitor at all, Since i am from china, I think U.S. is a bully and Steve Earle is pointing the mistakes that this contry is making, so less people will hate U.S. I think Steve is the hero.I also very sympathize john walker. thank you

  18. lee chen Says:

    I think steve earle is the national hero because he is doing what he believes in and I think he is not a traitor at all, Since i am from china, I think U.S. is a bully and Steve Earle is pointing the mistakes that this contry is making, so less people will hate U.S. I think Steve is the hero.I also very sympathize john walker. thank you

  19. lee chen Says:

    I think steve earle is the national hero because he is doing what he believes in and I think he is not a traitor at all, Since i am from china, I think U.S. is a bully and Steve Earle is pointing the mistakes that this contry is making, so less people will hate U.S. I think Steve is the hero.I also very sympathize john walker. thank you

  20. lee chen Says:

    I think steve earle is the national hero because he is doing what he believes in and I think he is not a traitor at all, Since i am from china, I think U.S. is a bully and Steve Earle is pointing the mistakes that this contry is making, so less people will hate U.S. I think Steve is the hero.I also very sympathize john walker. thank you

  21. Smiley Says:

    Hey Lee,you’re from China and think the US is a bully? Ask the Tibetans, or the South Koreans, or the people of Viet Nam what they think of China. Are you so naive to think that the sale of albums doesn’t come before your boy Steve’s sense of right and wrong. By the way I think France and Germany’s decision not to join us in the UN resolution actually held out hope to Iraq’s crazy family and ultimately speed up our invasion …so I cancelled my trip to France. Why are you still in the US if China is such a great place to live?

  22. Ted Says:

    Good point, Smiley. I am tired of these people ALWAYS speaking out against the status quo just to be heard. Most of them are saying that John Walker was an American who joined the taliban just expressing himself. Wow! So were Charles Manson and the Uni-bomber. Does being an American “expressing yourself” prove a valid point? I think not. John Walker is a traitor and was is a terrorist. And yes, America is a Bully! Who else would police the world to insure that our great nation of America is safe so that we are free to “express ourselves”?!

  23. Page Says:

    Ted, your perception of freedom confuses me. You want America to go around the world “bullying” so that we are safe to practice our feedoms, but you criticize an artist for exercising the freedoms we have killed 8,000 Iraqi civilians protecting.

    Steve Earle is an artist telling a story. He is not condoning John Walker’s actions, but trying to understand them.

    Ted gets a hard on when he goes to bed knowing he follows the status quo, and doesnt have to make an original thought or lead a unique life. But what about kids who dont fit into the status quo, and want to be FREE to believe in what they feel is true? That is the story of John Walker. I dont agree with what he did, but I can see the social pressures of conformity that drive kids to break out of the mold and find themselves.

    People act like Steve Earle is anti-American because he questions our culture and government. Are we back to McCarthyism?? Is everyone who has doubt about what our country’s foreign policy a terrorist themselves? Please.

    Our ability to express ourselves and question the government is what makes us truly FREE and DEMOCRATIC. Why kill for freedom–losing our own soldiers in the process–if we cant even exercise our freedoms back home?

  24. Ted Says:

    Page, getting a “hard on” about being in the status quo is not waht I do when I go to bed, but I appreciate your insight of me. (It’s funny).

    Back to the issue……I am a native Texan who enjoys Texas Country Music and other artists in that realm of music, and I am not calling Mr. Earle anti-American – in fact I never called him that. I said he was speaking out against the status quo just to be heard. Musicians should think twice before speaking out against our government and its decisions (i.e. the Dixie Chicks, and now Willie Nelson). These people are music entertainers, not politicians or presidential candiddates.

    Now, John Walker – I could give two sh*ts about him. He is a traitor who does not want to be associated with America. John Walker “expressing himself” means that he is anti-American.

    And I don’t know about you, but before I go to bed I feel safe knowing that our troops are fighting for our country. I do not fit in the staus quo either, but I know what the limits are. Without limits, yahoos would be overtaking the country killing our freedom. I hope that explained it.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    “Tom Wynn ascribes the profit motive, and only that, to Steve Earle in writing this song. I believe that someone at Artemis Records had suggested that Steve make a “political” record initially and John Walker’s Blues was one of the songs.”

    This is misleading – that someone at Artemis Records (Danny Goldberg) asked Steve to make a political record BEFORE 9-11 even happened(see: Interview at the World Cafe).

    If John Walker is evil for going and supporting the Taliban and al-qaeda, what does that make our government for doing the same? What about when you give the Taliban 100 million dollars in “aid”? I’m sincerely confused.

    “That land over there is yours. You will go back to it one day, because your fight will prevail and you’ll have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and God is on your side.” So said US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to CIA-backed Afghan Mujahedeen “freedom fighters” on the Pakistani border after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Apparently God switched sides when the Mujahedeen morphed into the Taliban.

    PS That Saudia Arabia – what a democracy! No wonder we business with them on a daily basis!

  26. rg Says:

    Not saying that Steve Earle has tried to cast John Walker as a hero, but there are people who have. that most, if not all of them, are people who would call themselves “liberals” or “leftists” is truely bizarre.

    John Walker is a religious fundamentalist who, dissatisfied with American liberalism and lack of religious ferver on government, fixated on the most conservative, anti-progressive aspects of old-school Islam, then found true happiness fighting for one of the most conservative, sexist and homophobic factions in the Middle East. How could anyone who would call themselves a liberal defend such a person? Surely, a real liberal would rather rent-share a one-room shack with Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant for a month than live in the same subdivision as a creep like John Walker for five minutes.

  27. leyla Says:

    yes..im a big fan of steve earle, and yes i agree with him!its all about peace and understanding and tolerance to all as far as i “understand”.and its a great song just like all the other songs by him.Leyla

  28. Gar Says:

    Where is johhny Walker Lindhe now and can he write on the net?
    Where are the diplomat spokesmen for the OIC?

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