Behind the Lyrics - The White Stripes: "The Big Three Killed My Baby"
(Photo Credit - Pieter M. van Hattem)
Hey-o! So, the past few editions, we looked at how to use song lyrics as a powerful tool in the fight against injustice. On that same vein, I think it is important to look at cultural context and appealing to a vast majority of audiences. The White Stripes is a great example of this. I wanted to pick a song to highlight how to appeal to a large amount of people while also remaining true to you or your band's ideals.
"The Big Three Killed My Baby" -- The White Stripes The big three killed my baby No money in my hand again The big three killed my baby Nobody's comin' home again Their ideas made me want to spit A hundred dollars goes down the pit Thirty thousand wheels are rollin' And my stick shift hands are swollen Everything involved is shady The big three killed my baby Yeah yeah yeah The big three killed my baby No money in my hand again The big three killed my baby Nobody's comin' home again Why don't you take the day off and try to repair A billion others don't seem to care Better ideas are stuck in the mud The motors runnin' on tuckers blood Don't let em tell you the futures electric Cause gasoline's no measured in metric Thirty thousand wheels are spinnin' And oil company faces are grinnin' Now my hands are turnin' red And I found out my baby is dead Yeah yeah yeah The big three killed my baby No money in my hand again The big three killed my baby Nobody's comin' home again Well I've said it now Nothing's changed People are burnin' for pocket change And creative minds are lazy The big three killed your baby The big three killed my baby No money in my hand again The big three killed my baby Nobody's comin' home again And my baby's my common sense So don't feed me planned obsolescence Yeah my baby's my common sense So don't feed me planned obsolescence I'm about to have another blowout I'm about to have another blowout
What we need to understand is how the White Stripes came to be. We have a couple of kids (Jack and Meg) growing up in the Rust Belt capital -- Detroit, MI. Back in its hey-day, it was marvelous. Tons of work, a powerhouse of the blues (thanks to the dedication of the African Americans who moved North), and it was a bustling city. However, in the 70s, this all starts crashing. The Big Three is in reference to GM, Ford, and Chrysler. There is a depression happening. Even if that isn't happening, a lot of the younger generations are feeling incredibly disheartened. You work your butt off for meager pay, no appreciation, and oftentimes, the work is so hard, you'll die from it. However, it is this painful cycle that eats family after family all for the cause of consumerism. This "cycle of poverty" is not highlighted enough in today's day and age. More and more people are falling into the working class, while the few and rich gain more off the labor of those below them. Families that have dedicated themselves to the business also have set their children up to not see that there may be a way out. A different path - hence, how this cycle of poverty keeps occurring. This is a blues song dedicated to the working class. "I'm about to have another blowout" is just such a powerful way to end a song like this. It is a call to action. Don't be happy with this. Fight this. Find more. Humans are worth more than that petty existence. So, how does this appeal to a larger group of people? Class. Now, please do not get me wrong -- racism is real. It is a problem that needs to be addressed, but classism is oftentimes an issue that gets overlooked and ignored. Politicians like to point at race to divide us when -- as what we have seen with the Black Lives Matter movement -- it is structural racism that we are really battling right now. If we all band together against the few rich, there is not stopping us. That is the power of looking at class in lyrics as well as other societal problems that can be address. Until next time.