Libertarian lyrics

May 10, 2008 – 12:57 pm by John

I think the Eagles, like most music artists, and particularly their main songwriters, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, have the reputation of being quite liberal. For instance, Don Henley founded the Walden Woods Project, a non-profit effort to buy land in and around Walden Pond to preserve it from development. He also touts his ardent environmentalism in general and his support for other conservation organizations. (However, I should point out that the Walden Woods Project uses very libertarian methods for preserving land: buying it to protect it, not lobbying for coercive legislation.)

Since the Bush regime responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by not only continuing but expanding the military activities that spawned the hatred and terrorism in the first place, invading a non-threatening country, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents, destabilizing the region further, and attracting new terrorists, we have seen an outpouring of foreign-policy commentary in songs, movies, and television. For instance, the updating of Iron Man to take place in the context of the 21st-century War on Terrorism, that miserable and idiotic Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid", and the entire movie Team America: World Police. I don't know of a political issue that was skewered so often, so thoroughly, by so many people in all segments of the entertainment industry as the neocons' foreign policy.

The Eagles' first full studio album since 1979, Long Road Out of Eden, doesn't skimp on the political commentary. But, being a libertarian, I like to think the sentiments motivating the lyrics are more libertarian than left-liberal. They certainly sound like it, on the surface. The title track and gem of the album ends with these lyrics:

Bloated with entitlement,
loaded on propaganda
and now we're driving dazed and drunk.

Been down the road to Damascus, the road to Mandalay,
met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian Way.
He said, "It's hard to stop the binging once you get a taste.
But the road to empire is a bloody, stupid waste."

Behold the bitten apple, the power of the tools.
But all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools.

In the song "Business As Usual," Don Henley sings:

Monuments to arrogance reach for the sky,
our better natures buried in the rubble.
We've got the prettiest White House that money can buy,
sitting up there in that Beltway bubble.

And when El Jefe talks about our freedom,
here is what he really means:
Business as usual
How dirty we play
Business as usual
Don't you get in the way

And in one of my least favorite songs on the album, "Frail Grasp On the Big Picture," Don Henley again:

Well, ain't it a shame about our short little memory
We never seem to learn the lessons of history
We keep making the same mistake
over and over and over and over again
and then we wonder why we're in the shape we're in.

Good ol' boys down at the bar—peanuts and politics
They think they know it all
They don't know much of nothing.
Even if one of them was to read a newspaper cover to cover,
that ain't what's going on—journalism dead and gone.

The major shortcoming of the album is its too-literal lyrics, in the political and non-political songs. They don't have much of a gift (or interest) for metaphors and subtlety anymore. But the gems like "No More Cloudy Days", "I Love to Watch a Woman Dance", and "Long Road Out of Eden" make it a very good album to an Eagles fan.

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