I Shot the Sheriff
Gene Simmons, the blood-spewing, fire breathing bassist and singer for the band KISS, says that the music boys listened to in their teens is most often the music they will gravitate to for the rest of their lives. (He said the same doesn’t hold true for girls, whose musical tastes, he says, often change with the times.)
What Simmons says about the male music audience resonates with me.
Music I listened to as a teenager, or younger, still resonates with me and it’s the music I still listen to most.
Following is a Blog that will catalogue the songs I’ve enjoyed from my youth onward – the songs that I have downloaded to my iPhone.
And where better to start than with ‘I Shot the Sheriff.’
I chose this song to start my blog because it is one of the first songs I remember really grabbing hold of the scruff of my neck and giving me a shake.
Originally written and performed by Bob Marley in 1973, the song was covered by Eric Clapton in 1974, going to number one on the billboard charts.
I first heard the song on a bicycle journey.
During the summer holidays between Grade Three and Four, a gang of us, maybe 10 in all, decided we were going to ride our bikes from Forrest Lawn, the neighborhood I was living in at the time, to Chestermere Lake.
Forrest Lawn was on the eastern edge of Calgary and Chestermere Lake was about six or seven kilometres from the city limits, so we felt like a bunch of bikers born to be wild – and that’s what we were.
I grew up in subsidized housing, which contained a lot of single parent apartments.
It was a great place to grow up – or more like tumble and fumble up – because there were probably 100 kids who lived in the five-building, three-storey, brown brick apartment complex, and we pretty well had the run of the place. With little parental supervision, we were like a bunch of feral children raising each other.
The great thing about that sort of upbringing was that a kid could go outside any time of day and find a dozen other kids to play with, and get into trouble with.
On the day we went on our bike journey we didn’t get into any trouble but it did feel like a huge adventure.
One of the kids riding with us, I don’t remember who it was, had a transistor radio and as we were driving along, a popular radio station at the time, CKXL, played ‘I Shot the Sheriff.’
Why the song resonated so deeply has to do with the music, because lyrics meant little to me at that age.
The music evokes what much reggae music evokes – images of sunlight, hot summer days, dusty back-roads and freedom – everything we were feeling that beautiful summer day of 1974.
It’s only when I was older and listened to the lyrics that I realized the song has everything a great, classic rock song should have – outlaws, guns, jails, cops gone bad, and injustice in a world trying to keep you down.
Here is a video of Clapton playing the song:
The lyrics are about a man who spent time in jail after being wrongly convicted of shooting the deputy. Upon his release from jail, the sheriff seeks him out to shoot him down but, instead, he shoots the sheriff – hence the lyrics, “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.”