Toby Keith's Boot Still Fits a Lot of Asses

In the post-Summer of Love late '60s — smack-dab in the middle of the Vietnam War protests, draft-card bonfires, and the Chicago Democratic convention melees — Merle Haggard dropped a couple of jingoistic little H-bombs titled "Okie from Muskogee" and "Fightin' Side of Me," which told the hippies burning their draft cards down on Main Street and running down Merle's country to go fuck themselves.

Being that Hag was covered by the Grateful Dead in concert and idolized by long-haired country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, it was an interesting message for Merle to send to a cross-section of fans who thought that Haggard, given his background as a former San Quentin inmate, had to be against authority. That "Okie from Muskogee" was tongue-in-cheek was lost on middle America, and Haggard found himself anointed the standard bearer for the right, a cheerleader for "the man," the dissenting voice in a chorus of anti-establishment protest.

If country music has a new icon for jackhammer jingoism, it is Toby Keith, the hulking former semi-pro football player and oil roughneck from Oklahoma. To liberal country artists such as Dixie Chick Natalie Maines (whom Keith publicly took to task for announcing onstage in Europe her embarrassment that she hailed from the same Texas that spawned George W.) and Kris Kristofferson, Keith is a nightmare, a smarter-than-he-looks playground bully who also looks as if he could tear down a shithouse brick-by-brick. Keith will get in another artist's face if he or she voices a dissenting opinion — at least according to reporting by Rolling Stone.

Before 9/11, Keith was a marginal '90s-era figure, but after al-Qaeda dropped the Twin Towers, Keith became the "boot in your ass" guy, with his patriotic rant "The Angry American (Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue)" and its memorable line, "We'll stick a boot in your ass / It's the American way."

Though Merle Haggard may have drawn a divisive line in the political sand with "Okie from Muskogee," Keith touched a far less subtle nerve in America, for no matter your politics (Keith is a Democrat, by the way), the image of Osama bin Laden painfully crawling around the mountains of Pakistan with a rattlesnake-skin Tony Lama stuck in his ass was a most pleasing visual. In singling out a villain that every red-blooded American reviles as one of history's biggest assholes, Keith, with all the panache and elegance of a sledgehammer, threw down the gauntlet and tapped a nerve in Americans who, barraged by TV images of the Twin Towers crumbling, wanted some stone-cold revenge.

Other country tunes in the aftermath of 9/11 covered the same turf, notably Alan Jackson's stirring "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" and Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten," but neither carried a single "boot, meet ass" mention. And as Americans, we have little patience for beating around the bush, so while Jackson sang poignantly, "Did you burst out in pride for the red, white, and blue / The heroes who died just doing what they do," Keith distilled a collective anger, boiling it down to a boot and an ass and promising a good ol' country ass-whippin.' America, fuck, yeah.

Nearly a decade later, "The Angry American" still butters Keith's bread, still gets plenty of airplay, and stands alone as the rarest of rarities in popular culture: a politically charged song with a universal sentiment.

 
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6 comments
Nsfarm
Nsfarm

First of all Julianess, could you do me a favor and buy a dictionary?Anthum? Phylosophy? Seriously, I'm embarassed for you.

Secondly, did all of you fail reading comprehension? Who am I kidding?You can't spell -- of course you failed.

Let me try to distill what Hansen Orf has said, because you're obviously not"getting it". (Sigh) He has just lauded Toby Keith with very highpraise. He is saying that Keith has managed to do what no otherhas done before and that is deliver a politically charged messagethat carries a universal sentiment. That's a good thing people!

I've seen Keith 3 times -- love his shows -- love him!!!

Chris Hansen Orf
Chris Hansen Orf

Thanks for the comments. I'll address the issues you have with the article.

1) First off, Kirsten, this article was in no way negative towards Toby Kieth, and I believe I DO understand Toby Keith, as I am a fan. I based this on the fact that the average listener, one who does not listen to contemporary country music, knows Toby Keith for this song. I also in no way defended what Natalie Means said in this article.

2) Geneva, whether the song came out eight years ago doesn't matter -- it is still routinely played on contemporary country radio, and the US is still at war, so I believe the topic to be interesting and still current.

3) Jualianess, I am not defining Keith career by this one song, any more than I define Merle Haggard by "Okie From Muskogee," and you miss the whole point if you feel the article was negative. Reread it.

Kirsten
Kirsten

I think people including the person who wrote this article need to really understand Toby Keith before coming to such conclusions. Not to mention this song has been around for how long now??? So he summed it up in 3 words, I think everyone wanted/wants to get that point across, it doesn't or shouldn't make a difference on how it's worded. Toby breaks his ass for the troops and supports them more then most!!!! I think it's time that everyone get over thinking about it any other way. Natalie Maines made a comment that Toby is ignorant I think she needs to take a good long look in the mirror. Obviously she didn't understand the meaning of the song.

Geneva
Geneva

Its a great song - if you know it or not Toby does a lot for the armed forces - the song was for them. I am more angered over Natalie Maines comment then I am of Toby's song. I for one would love to see Troops but their boots up Bin Laden's ass. Write something more interesting and more current.

Julianess
Julianess

Somebody should educate this writer about the song he so liberally quotes and writes about. Instead of making it sound as if the song is Toby Keith's anthum, he should do some research and learn about the origin of the song. I hate to do the guys work for him, but that song was originally meant only for the troops Toby Keith entertains each year on his USO tour. It was, in fact, military personel who encouraged the release of the song.

Additionally, it is long past time that writers, such as Chris Hansen Orf, define musical artists by one song. Get a life pal. That song is over eight years old. How about writing something current and not so negative.

Lastly, as an American, I was embarassed by Natalie Maines comment. I will always stand by the phylosophy that if you don't like it here, either work to change it, in a meaningful way (not just run off at the mouth), or leave.

Doliface
Doliface

Toby Keith is traveling the world getting his messages out. I say YEAH!!!! MORE TOBY!!!More $$$'s in his pockets!!!

 

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