Jim Siergey: Shotgun Consciousness

June 25th, 2019

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. There’s a saying we have heard or read often enough. It’s supposed to be motivating.

I had always thought it meant that when the going gets tough, the tough get going somewhere else…somewhere where the going isn’t so tough. I probably thought that because it was what I would do.

To quote the bullet-ridden and beaten up Jimmy Cagney from the movie Public Enemy, “I ain’t so tough.”

No, I’m not one for blood, sweat and tears although I did like the music of that band. I had been a fan of Al Kooper ever since he decided to play the organ, despite having never played one before, because the great Mike Bloomfield was already there on guitar and in doing so, changed the way “Like a Rolling Stone” sounded and Bob Dylan had himself a hit song.

Since I’m on the subject (for now) of music and mis or different interpretations of lyrics, let me lay the following on you. I must credit it to my friend Carl who recently brought it to my attention.

juniorwalkerJunior said it best over 50 years ago…


Junior Walker and the All-Stars had a hit in 1965 with “Shotgun”. It has been covered a zillion times by a zillion other artists. Anyway, the chorus goes:

Shotgun! Shoot him ‘fore he runs now
Do the jerk, baby.
Do the jerk now.

Most of us thought of the lyrics as references to dances. The Shotgun and The Jerk were popular dances at the time. But reading the lyrics in a different manner gives a whole different meaning to them.

Shoot him’fore he runs now. Do the jerk. Do the jerk NOW.

It becomes not a song about dancing, it becomes a commentary about gun violence, in particular, cops against protesters. After all, this song did come out during the violent and divisive 1960s.

Then the lyrics continue into:

We’re gonna dig potatoes, we’re gonna pick tomatoes

Slave and slave owner references, anyone?

The peppy, jazzy, dancey musical accompaniment did a great job of shadowing the intent of those lyrics and making it a big hit. Maybe I’m the only one for whom the underlying message was lost upon…but I don’t think so.

This recent revelation has made me admire this song even more so than I already did, which was more for the catchy tune and chorus.

Maybe it’s time for a “Gangsta Rap” version of this song?

I dunno. It’s getting a bit tough right now. I should be going.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Backyard Shenanigans

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