Recently I’ve been reading a lot of news stories about the Tea Party movement, and it made me think about the late Johnny Cash.
That statement might sound like a head-scratcher, but before you jump to any conclusions, let me offer a quick explanation. There’s a lot of information out there about the Tea Party movement, but most of it seems confusing and contradictory. As near as I can tell, it includes people from almost every part of the political spectrum, including some who are normally bitter enemies, but they all have one thing in common — they’re dissatisfied with the way things are.
Keep in mind that I haven’t suddenly turned into a political analyst of any sort, so those who are for — or against — the Tea Party need to understand that when it comes to describing the movement, I’m speaking from ignorance. (A place I often inhabit.) But still, it is a little confusing to try and make sense of the movement’s search for an identity.
I also have to admit that any connection between Johnny Cash and the Tea Party pretty much exists only in my noggin. After all, he died back in 2003. But he’s been mentioned a lot lately because we just passed what would have been his 78th birthday, so when I began thinking about all the confusion surrounding the Tea Party, an old song of his came to mind.
Back in the Sixties, when folk music was rising in popularity and seemed to be everywhere, a songwriter named Jack Clement wrote a satirical song about a fictional singing group. Johnny Cash recorded the piece for his album, Everybody Loves a Nut, and it surprised a lot of people by becoming the breakout hit, rising nearly to the top of the charts.
Clement actually wrote several of the tunes on that album, including the always popular “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog,” but the biggest hit was that song about the folk-singers, “The One on the Right Is on the Left.” It told the story of a promising singing group that faced difficulties because the members couldn’t reconcile their differences.
Although the song is over forty years old, it carries a message that might still be valuable to some. It’s pretty clearly spelled out in one of the verses:
‘They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall’