Friday, April 23, 2010

'Little Sadie'/'Cocaine Blues'/'Bad Lee Brown' (by Suzie)

The post below has a video of Adrienne Young, when she sang with the Big White Undies. Above is her bluegrass "Sadie's Song," sung from the perspective of the murdered woman in ballad "Little Sadie." Many men have sung this song, changing lyrics here and there. Johnny Cash sang of "Cocaine Blues," with the killer ending up in Folsom Prison. Woody Guthrie called it "Bad Lee Brown," and tacked on a traditional ending: "I'll be here fer the rest of my life,/ All I done was kill my wife." Some think it inspired Jimi Hendrix's "Hey, Joe," in which he shoots "his woman" down for being unfaithful, and the listener is sympathetic.

Music critic Lyle Lofgren recognizes the "outlaw as folk hero," but says "Little Sadie" depicts a psychopath, not someone whom listeners would like. But a lot of listeners like outlaws and gangsters who have no redeemable qualities. Perhaps it ties into masculinity: I'm a bad man -- don't mess with me.

Some men may identify with a man who gets so angry that he shoots his wife or girlfriend. I enjoy songs in which women strike back at violent men. I shouldn't have to point this out, but the difference is that men around the world are much more likely to kill women than vice versa. In the songs about a man killing a woman, the woman usually has cheated on the man, or has rejected or dishonored him in some way. I can't think of any song in which a man kills a woman because she has abused him physically.

I'm ending with another singer who brings the victim into focus, this time using the song's exact words. The video for Tori Amos' cover of an Eminem song shows a woman full of fear and worry, before the killer comes through the door.