Saturday, February 21, 2009

What a long strange ride it's been

Earlier this week I was suddenly reminded about the old David Allan Coe song "The Ride." If you've never heard the lyrics before, they describe a mythical ride with a stranger who is immediately recognizable to any respectable country music fan.

Lyrics | David Allan Coe lyrics - The Ride lyrics

Well, that was a nice little hit for Coe, and time went on.

And Coe still sings the song. Here's a 2007 performance:

He certainly portrays the outlaw well, doesn't he? Unlike Hank Williams himself, who died young, Coe was too stubborn to die, despite his youth (if you believe the stories):

Born Sept. 6, 1939, in Akron, Ohio, David Allan Coe was in and out of reform schools, correction centers and prisons since the age of 9. One of the most fascinating -- and, some would say, dangerous -- figures in the entire history of country music, Coe's unrestrained ego is evident throughout his work....

While some of the circumstances of Coe's outlaw life are easily substantiated, it's often impossible to unravel all of the stories that have led to his larger myth. According to his publicity campaigns, he spent time on Death Row for killing a fellow inmate who demanded oral sex. After receiving a conflicting account from prison officials, a Rolling Stone magazine reporter questioned Coe about the alleged murder. His musical response was the song, "I'd Like to Kick the Shit Out of You."

His songwriting credits include "Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)?" and "Take This Job and Shove It." "The Ride" was released in 1983, but his highest-charting performance was 1984's "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile" (number 2 on the country charts). And, of course, his songwriting hit number one with Johnny Paycheck. (Incidentally, Paycheck's real name was Donald Lytle. And Coe outlived Lytle also.)

But Coe's perfect country song wasn't written by him, as this video (unfortunately, non-embeddable) of "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" shows. (H/T Francine Hardaway, who commented in these two threads.) Two observations: first, he's a good impressionists, and second, in his younger years Coe looked like Dr. Gene Scott.

But Coe's influence isn't limited to country music. His MySpace page (what - you expected him on Facebook?) provides this biography:

I am a songwriter who has written over ten thousand songs. I've written a lot of country hits over the years for the likes of George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, Leon Russell, Charlie Louvin, Del Reeve, Melba Montgomery, Stoney Edwards, The Oakridge Boys and Elvis Presley. I've written Heavy Metal Songs for the Dead Kennedy's and Pantera. I've written songs for rappers such as Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker, and Canibus, who's version of "Take This Job and Shove it" was featured in the Movie Office Space.
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