Ten Country Songs That Make Me Cringe: Coward of the County (#8)

@FourWalls (15302)
United States
February 24, 2017 7:58am CST
It's time to look at another one of those songs from the vast, nearly 100-year-old world of recorded country music that they could just send off in a rocket to one of those seven new exoplanets and never, never, never play again. When my dad and I discuss other types of music (none of which he likes), I always remind him of my saying: not all good music is country, and not all country music is good. This is one of my prime examples. #8: Coward of the County - Kenny Rogers I. HATE. This. Song. How do I really feel? Let me start with Kenny: I always thought he was far more "country" when he was with the rock group! The First Edition's mega hit, "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)," was written by Mel Tillis. After a few "comeback" hits in the mid-70s Rogers basically turned into the country music Lionel Richie (an accurate comparison if you consider that Rogers covered "Lady;" and, while Bob Seger was singing Rodney Crowell's "Shame on the Moon" Rogers was singing a Bob Seger song!). (And my apologies to Lionel: I kinda like "All Night Long (All Night)," and he did co-write "Brick House.") Richie's...er....Rogers' career began its rebound with the 1977 smash "Lucille" (quick show of hands: who else has sung that chorus as "you picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel"?). The same guy who wrote that wrote this piece of crap. And you know it was a guy who wrote it. Fellas, I don't care what the porn flicks say, women do not fantasize about being raped. So why on this earth would someone throw a gang rape into a song? C'mon, there's not even the implied social commentary of Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy" (notice the guy never gets treatment for his perceived mental illnesses because "he's just an excitable boy") in this song. If you want to hear how a woman writes a song dealing with rape, listen to Gillian Welch's "Caleb Mayer." But that's only the half of it (and I know you're probably telling me, "wow, you are way over-analyzing this stuff;" however, in truth, I've felt this way about this song since I first heard it!). Tommy, the eponymous pacifist, isn't defending her honor when he beats the crap out of the Gatlin boys (more about their name in a minute), he's defending his. "Twenty years of crawling was bottled up inside him," not "he thought about his poor wife with every punch he threw." He only throws one for her pain -- the last one. And, at the end, he reiterates that he's out to make himself look macho: "sometimes you have to fight to be a man." Now, about the "Gatlin boys." Roger Dale Bowling, who wrote "Lucille" (and also wrote one of my favorite songs, Billie Jo Spears' "Blanket on the Ground"), wrote this. According to Larry Gatlin, head of the Gatlin Brothers trio who've had hits like "All the Gold in California" and "Broken Lady," after "Lucille" won all the CMA awards in 1977 Larry went to congratulate Bowling, and he said something unsavory and not-repeatable-here to Gatlin. Next thing you know, "there were three of them" (Larry, Steve, Rudy) rapists named Gatlin that show up in this song. I've heard Larry isn't the nicest human on the planet, but I've met Steve and Rudy twice at "country gold" concerts, and they're sweethearts. They didn't deserve that. Nobody deserves to be related however remotely to this crap. PS -- I just saw on Picky Wedia that they have Barry Gibb listed as co-writer. In a word, no. Coward of the County Written by Roger Bowling and Billy Edd Wheeler Recorded by Kenny Rogers From Kenny, 1979 From Kenny's country days in the rock band:
7 people like this
7 responses
• Bournemouth, England
24 Feb 17
The first time I heard this played as a new release on British radio I said to myself that it would be number one here. It was within a month. It was the sort of song that sold here then. You wouldn't believe some of the songs that sold here then. I must admit I hadn't noticed the lyrics implying any fantasy on the victim's part but what for me adds to the trivialising is when you see live performance recordings and the chorus seems to be sung faster, in an almost cheerful, uptempo manner. I'm sure in some places the crowd probably cheers along with the retribution, the way I've seen them do on film of Vicki Lawrence singing her one hit (which I suspect might be a contender for this series...)
1 person likes this
@FourWalls (15302)
• United States
24 Feb 17
I'm sorry, I didn't get that clear about the "fantasy." The point is that I don't like rape -- especially a gang rape -- put into "entertainment" for the sake of entertainment. That's true of this song, A Clockwork Orange (that movie gave me nightmares), or anywhere else. The notion is that there's some "entertainment value" in violence, which is probably why the US society is overrun with violence. My apologies for not making that more clear. And no, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" won't be on the list. I actually like that song, because it's a very ugly and real look at "backwoods southern," ahem, "justice."
1 person likes this
• Bournemouth, England
24 Feb 17
@FourWalls I quite agree. I think it's different if it comes from a personal perspective in a quality song, such as Tori Amos writing about her own experience. 'The Night...' was never a hit here but got played. My late mother loved it. Perhaps if the Carol Burnett Show had had more of a profile here it might have broken.
1 person likes this
@teamfreak16 (41526)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
25 Feb 17
I hated this the first time I heard it. I had a girlfriend that liked it. I had to break up with her!
1 person likes this
@FourWalls (15302)
• United States
25 Feb 17
Smart move on your part.
1 person likes this
@Dena91 (4663)
• United States
24 Feb 17
I grew up listening to Kenny and I agree his songs are horrendous. Never knew he was in a rock band. Learn something new everyday. Have a blessed day
1 person likes this
@FourWalls (15302)
• United States
24 Feb 17
Oh, yeah, The First Edition...later "Kenny Rogers and the First Edition."
Kenny Rogers & The First Edition- Something's Burning (Live) - Bueno, no está compeleto pero es un clásico para todos los fans de Kenny.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (134903)
• Bunbury, Australia
25 Feb 17
I agree that this is a dreadful song. Real cringe material. Nice background history as always.
1 person likes this
@amadeo (73646)
• United States
24 Feb 17
I am not aware and not a Kenny Rogers fan If you hate it.Let it be
1 person likes this
@JohnRoberts (63350)
• Los Angeles, California
24 Feb 17
Just about anything Kenny Rogers makes me cringe except maybe good old Ruby. I don't know when or how to hold it ...I mean...them...when the Gambler comes on.
1 person likes this
@vandana7 (67763)
• India
24 Feb 17
I can't follow the words...but based on what you wrote ..I guess it is rotten..
1 person likes this