I was saddened to read about the recent death of Charlie Daniels, who was an iconic American musical figure. In 1973, he recorded one of my favorite protest-type songs: Uneasy Rider. It’s still on my playlist, nearly 50 years later. I’ve linked to a YouTube clip of the song, with lyrics, above.
Uneasy Rider tells the story of a long-haired hippie type who gets a flat tire while driving through Mississippi and interacts with locals who aren’t exactly enamored of his hair or the peace signs on his car. It’s got a catchy, countrified tune, but the real reason it is so memorable is that it is light and funny. Sometimes the best way to make your point is with humor, rather than heavy-handed and ponderous pontificating. Uneasy Rider strikes that chord. (There are other examples of early ’70s music that, like Uneasy Rider, managed to combine a good tune and deliver a message with some humor — like Cover of the Rolling Stone, by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, which deftly lampooned the pretensions and money earned by rock bands of that day.)
Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the ability to make a point with a light touch these days. In my view, we could use more protest songs along the lines of Uneasy Rider.
Rest in peace, Charlie Daniels.