The Tale Behind The Tune: "I Don’t Live in Dallas"
Jarrod Birmingham is everything any self-respecting Texan would like to be: a bull rider, a working cowboy, and a singer-songwriter. Those are three very romanticized but difficult occupations. At one time or another, Jarrod has earned his income from each of the three. Most of us can’t make an honest claim to have paid the rent exercising our skills at any of the above. It’s my opinion that Jarrod has earned the right and is well qualified to make a social commentary on the state of our state. I’m not necessarily qualified, but I’ll take a moment to make one of my own anyway.
Most of us like to bad-mouth bankers, lawyers, and the filthy rich. We’ll tolerate the rich but getting filthy at being rich is just going too far. By the way, I’ve never figured out exactly where the line between rich and filthy rich is drawn, but I think you make the mark about two decimal points to the right of the bottom line on your own statement of net worth.
Whatever the case, I think I’m like most Texans and that my brain works like most Texan brains. Try this little word association game. Say each of the trigger words from the list on the left below to a well-traveled Texan. Tell them they have to respond to each trigger word with the name of a Texas city. See if their responses aren’t similar to mine.
I’m sharing this seemingly extraneous information with you before I get to the part of the article that’s about the song because I need to build a case for the statement I’m going to make at the end of the article. Now, Jarrod got some flack about his song “I Don’t Live in Dallas.” I thought I’d feature the song in this article to rally to his defense. I called Jarrod at his home just outside of Victoria to talk about his No Apologies CD. It took him a while to get to the phone because he was outside feeding his livestock. Here’s what he had to say about why he wrote “I Don’t Live in Dallas” and included it on the CD.
"I Don’t Live in Dallas"
by Jarrod Birmingham
Well the city’s so big nobody know where it starts or where it ends
If you’ve got the money you can buy you up a lot of friends
‘Cause they’ll take anybody who drives a nice car
Got a place just for you up in Highland Park
If I don’t ever go there it’ll be all right with me
‘Cause I don’t live in Dallas I live in Texas
Where we ain’t got no hockey
And no damn metroplexes
I don’t live in Dallas I live in Texas
And if I don’t ever go there it’ll be alright with me
Now Benny Hinn comes on Sundays everybody’s gonna go sing along
‘Cause they can’t start their football ‘til all wide receivers post bond
You’re a whole buncha yuppies with nothin’ to do
But keep Isuzu in business you all know it’s true
I’d like to sell you to Oklahoma if they could only afford you
(If you’re not familiar with the song’s lyrics, you might want to read them about now to put everything in context.)
Every time you meet somebody out of state they say, “I’ve been to Texas before,” and nine times out of ten you say, “Where at?” They say, “I’ve been to Dallas.”
It [the song] was tongue in cheek and it got taken too seriously, but you know one of the reasons we decided to put it on the album—well there was two [reasons why they put it on the album]. I was told I didn’t have the guts to, and don’t do that to me, and the other was . . . There was a rodeo friend of mine from Alberta down here, and he was makin’ fun of the fact that it was so hot, you know, we thought we had to have hockey teams. [Jarrod’s friend said], “Hockey’s not Texas and leave it alone.” I said, “Well, you know there’s lots of hockey teams in Texas.” He said, “Yea, but every one of ‘em’s [the hockey players in Texas] last name is Lemieux or some [surname] from Canada.”
It was kind of a joke, but people took it too far. It’s music, people. It’s not an amendment to the Constitution. It’s just music. It’s tongue in cheek. One of my best friends in the world lives in Dallas, but I guess if you can’t take a joke, well if you take yourself that seriously, then we got a problem anyway.
Therein lies the point on which I hope we can all agree. A true Texan never takes himself too seriously and can take a joke—and can take one best when he is the punch-line. If you’re reading this article, and you don’t live in Dallas, then my word association game and Jarrod’s song are just good clean fun. If you live in Dallas, and my word association game and or Jarrod’s song made you chuckle then consider yourself a true Texan. If either the word association game or the song offended you, then you are all that of which you’ve been accused. You helped Dallas earn its reputation, so you get to live with it.
George Bancroft lives in Big Spring, Texas. He has a radio show called The Texas Tunesmith and can be heard at KBST 95.7, Saturday and Sunday evenings, and on the internet on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (CST) on tossmradio.com.
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