Reflections on "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean.
Friday, August 12, 2022
I am listening to this song today and remembering how I used to make my daughters (and any other children who found themselves in the back of my car) sing along to it on road trips.
I probably first heard it – played to me by an uncle who took informal responsibility for my musical education – not too long after it came out in 1961. I'd have just started infants school. I heard it a lot over the years that followed.
Given the size of said uncle (and all the other men in my family) I knew that one day I'd grow up to be the size of the song's hero.
The boy Tom was a serious, thoughtful little chap and thought that one day he'd have to aspire to be that way – metaphorically.
It was a daunting prospect and good reason to enjoy the rest of a carefree boyhood while it lasted.
The only mine I ever went down didn't collapse on me. I never faced such a test of courage. Who knows how I would have fared? I might well have been one of the other miners: praying, my heart beating fast and fearing I'd breathed my last. Still, the song embodies for me the ideal of what it means to be a "proper man".
Today, that's "toxic masculinity" and is to be despised. "Courage" is now used as a word to describe public whingeing about one's first world problems – real or imagined.
Mr Paine the elder, a wiser gentleman than he knows, has often told me over the years that we have to die in the end, because the world changes until we no longer fit in it. Perhaps, when your highest ideals are looked down upon, it is time to move on?
Maybe so but I still love the song. YouTube does not permit it to be presented here, but follow this link to hear it. If your woke education permits, enjoy!