The Best Song of 2016 (So Far): Drive-By Truckers’ “What It Means”

Jan 30th, 2016 in Music

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“Pocketful of Skittles” by Alteronce Gumby

At the fab Todos Santos Musical Festival last weekend, Drive-By Truckers were (as always) phenomenal and one of the highlights of each night.  A highlight from their set each night was a brand new, unreleased song written by Patterson Hood entitled What It Means.  Hood wrote the song in the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and entirely too many African-Americans.  Watch Hood give the backstory of the song and perform it solo, and then check out Drive-By Truckers performing the song at Todos Santos (apologies for the missed start).  Hood is singing truths that need to be sung over and over, and we need to work harder to figure out what it all means.  And deal.  In the meantime, we’ve got What It Means on constant repeat at Chez Lefort and can’t get enough.  We trust the song will appear on the next Drive-By Truckers album.  We can’t wait.

What It Means

He was running down the street when he was shot dead in his tracks
About the only thing agreed upon is he ain’t coming back.
There won’t be any trial so the air it won’t be cleared
There’s just two sides calling names out of anger out of fear.

If you say it wasn’t racial when they shot him in the back
well I guess that means that you ain’t black,
it means that you ain’t black
I mean Barack Obama won
and you can choose where to eat
but you don’t see too many white kids
lying bleeding on the street

In some town in Missouri but it could be anywhere
it could be right here on Ruth Street,
in fact it’s happened here
and it’s happened where you’re sitting,
wherever that might be
and it happened again last weekend and it will happen again next week
and when they turned him over,
they were surprised there was no gun
I mean he must have stolen something,
or else why would he have run
and they’ll spin it for the anchors on the television screen
so we can shrug and let it happen
without asking what it means

What it means?

Then I guess there was protesting
and some looting in some stores
and someone was reminded
that they ain’t called colored folks no more
I mean we try to be politically correct when we call names
but what’s the point of post-racial
when the old prejudice remains
and that guy who killed that kid
down in Florida standing ground
is free to beat up on his girlfriend
and wave his brand new gun around
while some kid is dead and buried and laying in the ground
with a pocket full of Skittles

What it means?

Astrophysics at our fingertips
we’re standing at the summit
and some kid with a joystick lands a rocket on a comet
We’re living in an age where limitations are forgotten
the outer edges can move and dazzle us but at the core there’s something rotten
And we’re running through a darkness
of prejudice and fear
we trust science just as long as it
tells us what we want to hear
we want our truths all fair and balanced
as long as our notions lie within it
There’s no sunlight in our assholes
and our heads are stuck up in it
and our heroes may be rapists
who watch us while we dream
but don’t look to me for answers
cuz I don’t know what it means

What it means?

1 Comment

  • Saw them perform this at the opening show for their homecoming at the 40 Watt last night. Could hardly wait to get home and figure out what it was. Great song, great songwriters, great band


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