January 19, 2010

Ray Stevens: We The People music video, Part Two

2,270,220 hits have been obtained for the Ray Stevens music video, "We The People". As I touched on in previous blog entries this month this song has rattled the cages of more than a few who until this song came along had never even heard of Ray Stevens before. I came across a blog earlier today where the writer resorted to the usual racism stand-by. I won't directly quote the line but it came across that Ray's song, in that blogger's opinion, was racially based. The blog goes on to say that Ray has the nerve to vilify the first African-American president. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but what does Obama's race have to do with objecting his policies? The blogger made it appear that Obama is above criticism because of his race. Now...doesn't that sound racist to you? Here you have a blogger slamming "We The People" and country people in general and remarking that the first African-American president shouldn't be criticized. Since when did Obama receive immunity from criticism and since when did criticizing someone who's an African-American become a form of racism? I think these people assume everyone who criticizes African-Americans are racists in some kind of way. It's the only thing I can come up with to explain their logic.

One of the funniest Ray Stevens albums from the 1980's is this one, Crackin' Up. At any opportunity I like to promote that album because of the wild and crazy novelty songs that are featured. The album actually starts off rather biting...the religious satire, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" gets things underway. Now, if you think the fuss by some over "We The People" is out of hand you should have seen some of the comments hurled at Ray back in 1987 when "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" was released. Those with no sense of humor, or, those who didn't appreciate the satire, called Ray everything from sacrilegious to a devil in Saint's clothing because the song mocked televangelists and it pondered the question of whether or not Jesus would be decked in jewelery when he comes back to Earth to resemble many of the televangelists of that era. A lot of the evangelists lived lavish lives and the scrutiny came as a result of how ministers who supposedly are doing their evangelical work for next to nothing and speak out against excesses end up living the life of millionaires. The song was written by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer. It was the only single from the album to make the country music charts. The single hit early in May of 1987 and in January of 1988 it was nominated for a Grammy in the "Comedy Recording of the Year" category. Ray's single was up against albums by Weird Al Yankovic, Robin Williams, Bob and Ray, and Jackie Mason. The album hit the Top-30 on the country albums chart and remained a significant best-seller for 15 weeks.

Although they had little impact there were some critics of the album's comedic tone. There were some critics who complained about the so-called "adult humor" found on the album and these critics chastised Ray for not being "family friendly". To explain what these misguided souls were referring to I suspect it had to do with "Three Legged Man", for example. In the song Ray tells of a comical scenario between a two men and a woman. One man steals a woman away from the other guy, who has a peg leg. The other man decides to not only take the woman but also take the peg leg and therefore he becomes a "Three Legged Man". I saw some vintage reviews of the album and seen a comment that the song was too mature for families. Another song that was questioned was "The Day That Clancy Drowned". This song is about a man who works at the brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and by accident fell into a vat of beer...and drowned. We're given a step by step account of the aftermath including a brief eulogy by a preacher. "Cool Down Willard" is one of the so-called mature songs where Ray plays the part of a frustrated husband fed up with his wife's fixation on Willard Scott. Ray gets to do his popular old lady vocal characterization at various points in the song, playing the role of Grandma who can't control her lust for Willard. Ray's spoof of the unlikely duo of Willie and Julio came alive on "Sex Symbols", a song where Ray sings a 'duet' with Julio. Of course Ray mimics a Latin-type voice while playing the Julio role. Ray and Julio brag about their prowess and good looks to one another. As you can tell it was one of the songs deemed "too mature" and not family friendly.

Song contents:

1. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?
2. Three Legged Man
3. Cool Down, Willard
4. I'm My Own Grandpaw
5. The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty
6. Sex Symbols
7. Gourmet Restaurant
8. The Flies of Texas Are Upon You
9. Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me
10. The Day That Clancy Drowned

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