Firearms in Pop Music: A Second Amendment Mix Tape

One of the most difficult and frustrating activities in the world right now is online job searching, but every now and then I’ll find a posting that tweaks my interest enough to actually get me imagining myself in a job I am absolutely unqualified for. They could take a chance on me; after all, writing is a skill set with a wide variety of applications, right?

Well, let’s test that theory. I go and find a listing on one of my favorite job sites, Media Bistro. The NRA’s publication is seeking a writer/editor… How hard could that be? I like guns. I grew up with a father who is an avid gun collector. I’ve even spent my fair share of time in the Bisti Badlands shooting cans off of stumps and sandstone hills.

But while I sit in my fantasy of making my daddy proud by becoming a writer for one of his favorite publications, I realize my knowledge of firearms extends to knowing the difference between a rifle and a handgun– oh, and knowing the pain of a BB piercing my right shoulder (yeah, my brother shot me once while we were playing in the backyard… at least he gave me a running start).

Well, there is one area I can actually offer some expertise, and that’s the subject of firearms and music. Do you know how many great songs are out there mythologizing holster-happy cowboys, bottle-shooting rednecks and gun-loving everyday Americans? There are a few vigilante tales of murder and woe in there, too. Take a listen to these tunes, and if they don’t make you wanna head to your local Walmart to buy a gun rack, I don’t know what will …

Song: Janie’s Got A Gun

Artist: Aerosmith

Lesley Ann Warren never looked so sexy as she did in her Aerosmith video roles. Her brief appearance in this one gives a little throwback to her character’s wardrobe in “Beulah Land.” Here she plays Janie’s mother, who finds out the titular girl is being abused by her father. The tune details Janie’s angst telling people about her daddy issues and, finding that no one believes her, taking matters into her own hands. The song’s heavy topic is somewhat cheapened when viewers see Steven Tyler crawl around on a grate and flip his microphone scarves all over the place (I need some of those for my own mic stand), but the tune’s still a classic and a worthy entry on the list.

Song: Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Artist: The Beatles

John Lennon got the idea for this tune from a magazine cover he saw. Writing about this particular song, Lennon said he thought the headline of the article “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” was so fantastic he had to write about it. But one has to wonder if the “Imagine”-singing peacenik realized at the time that a warm gun usually means someone’s fired it. Still, the concept was a hit in the making as Lennon took three songs he’d been working on previously and formed them into this now-classic Beatles tune (for the record, I do know it’s not about firearms and is a sexual metaphor).

Song: Gun

Artist: Uncle Tupelo

Using a gun as a metaphor for your heart is always a bad sign. Uncle Tupelo “sold his guitar to the girl next door” and wrote a song about his quick-fire, now-empty heart. This tune even gets those rifle-hating liberals using the “G” word while singing in the shower.

Song: You Give Love A Bad Name

Artist: Bon Jovi

It’s an anthem of a generation who embraced a New Jersey boy, his great hair and the tightest pants on the face of the earth. Jon Bon Jovi, thank you for those glorious pants. Whenever I hear “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name,” I think about how many Bon Jovi posters used to grace the walls of my bedroom as a teenager. Sometimes I can still hear my parents yelling “Deanna Marie Murray, turn that music down now.”

Song: Beer for My Horses

Artist: Toby Keith

Willie Nelson and the patriotic Toby Keith team up for this fun-loving cowboy tune touting justice for all and putting evil dudes in the ground– well, that and delivering liquor to four-legged, saddled beasts of burden. Just a quick question, though– what kind of citation can the police issue a horse for trotting under the influence?

Song: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Artist: Gene Pitney

All hail the western. Who doesn’t enjoy classic tales celebrating good versus evil, the love of a hardy woman, and the king of cowboy cinema, John Wayne? I throw this nostalgic tune in especially for my Gramps who is a Wayne aficionado and actually owns a John Wayne collector’s rifle. Both a film and a song, this song tells the story of a cowboy who gave the ultimate justice to the baddest of dudes. You have to wonder if Liberty Valance turned evil because the school kids made fun of his name– just a wild guess.

Song: I’m Gonna Get Me A Gun

Artist: Cat Stevens

This is simply the hokiest song I have ever heard. Musically, it’s silly, strange, and carnival-like. Yet Stevens’ exuberant delivery is absurdly comical, so I had to include it. You can almost imagine Pee-Wee Herman singing this in Stevens’ denim work shirts instead of the doofy bow tie. I can literally envision a person skipping along the sidewalk to the local pawn shop, singing, “I’m gonna get me a gun (doo doo doo doo doo), I’m gonna get me a gun.”

Song: Cleaning This Gun

Artist: Rodney Atkins

I think every dad in the world talks about the fact he’s going to buy a shotgun before his daughter starts dating. “Cleaning This Gun” is an ode to the fear of God every father wants to put into the teenage boys taking his little princess of the house. The song’s lyrics revel in the image of Daddy sitting on the porch, rifle in lap, laying down the law and making sure to reiterate he’ll be up when the boy returns with his daughter only to find the old man “still cleaning his gun.”

Song: Give Me Back My Bullets

Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd

The title track to Skynyrd’s fourth studio album, “Give Me Back My Bullets” was the band’s best charting record, reaching #20 on the U.S. charts. This tune is a prime example of a song proudly proclaiming a person’s right to own guns. Lynyrd Skynyrd contrasts the stigma of being a gun lover with the pride of ownership. It’s a serious responsibility, as he lets us know he “ain’t foolin’ around.”

Song: Gunpowder And Lead

Artist: Miranda Lambert

This sweet girl has a kickin’ edge. One of Miranda Lambert’s first songs to hit the charts is a gritty tune of a girl taking control of her own destiny after being abused by a boyfriend. Obviously, we don’t condone this type of violence, but we’re all in favor of a great country tune performed by a beautiful woman, right? I can’t think of a more feminist, pro-girl-power line than “his fist is big, but my gun is bigger.”

So, there it is. You might not think these tunes deliver the same kick as a Desert Eagle .44 or a 300 Weatherby Magnum (for those big game hunters out there), but they’re as exhaustive a list as I could come up with. No worries, I won’t recoil (another gun term, points for me?) from your own suggestions. Fire away…

But before I sign off, any sure shots out there willing to teach a girl to point and shoot?

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