Friday, February 17, 2017

Dirty Harry - A Real War Poem

The song "Dirty Harry" by The Gorrilaz on  their 2005 album Demon Days is poetry. You can see the lyrics here for the song. An important thing to note about The Gorrilaz, is that the songs are heavily correlated to the music videos, so to understand some things about the song, we have to take in to account. The setting is a desolate desert, with nothing but some animals, the band, and an armored vehicle. I'm gonna cut to the chase before explaining much more of the song, this song is a political commentary on American involvement and fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Knowing this, we can assume that they are currently in one of these middle eastern countries.
The song immediately starts with the chorus, preformed by the main vocalist 2D and the children's choir. It goes as follows.
I need a gun to keep myself from harm
The poor people are burning in the sun
But they ain't got a chance
They ain't got a chance
I need a gun
Cos all I do is dance
Cos all I do is dance
Right now, the speaker(s) of the words is just anybody who dislikes the fighting that is going on, on either side of the war. They speak about needing to get weapons to protect themselves from the fighting, even though all they want to do is dance in the safety of peace. They are mostly focusing on the despair of the innocent residents of the middle east who are subject to the power of America. The word "dance" appears multiple times in this song, and the dancing represents freedom. The chorus repeats another time, then there is a short section of pure music, brought to an end by a yell. The yell marks the start of the meat of Dirty Harry, the rap.

Referring back it the video, we can see that the rap is said by someone who appears to be a US army man, judging from his dress. This is a shift in the song, as the speaker has now changed from a spectator in the war, to a participant. He knows something is going on with this war, something that isn't morally sound. He states how he is "a peace loving decoy/ready for retaliation." This refers to how the soldier believes they are fighting for some sort of reason, and he is struggling to accept why they are there. He believes that he is being mislead, but is still prepared to fight for his life. He gives several examples about the war's horror, like being buried in a pine box somewhere in the desert, and how it is "impulsive" and he "don't ask why or wonder" what all of this is about. He goes on about his orders are to kill and offer no remorse, and he obliges, but is being torn apart by his actions. He is "filled with guilt/from the things that i've seen." 

He also says the line "I'm the reason why you fill up your Isuzu." The line has two different ideas behind it; An Isuzu is a motorcycle, a machine that uses oil in its primary functions, driving home our setting of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the fact that we are somehow able to relax in luxury while he is out fighting for us.

My favorite, and the most striking part of this poem comes in the last stanza were it reads:
At night I hear the shots
Ring so I'm a light sleeper
The cost of life,
it seems to get cheaper
out in the desert
with my street sweeper
The war is over
So said the speaker with the flight suit on
Maybe to him I'm just a pawn
So he can advance
Remember when I used to dance
There are quite a few things going on here. It starts off with some striking lines about the futility and immorality of the fight. It then speaks about President Bush directly referring to his Mission Accomplished speech when he declared the end of the Iraq war. The speech was controversial because there was still fighting going on in Iraq. The soldier believes he is used in a war he has no business in, and all he wants to do is dance, as in go home and relax. He uses the word "pawn" for a few different reasons as well. A pawn often represents something of little work, but also at the same time it is used to better everything else at its own expense, which is very similar to how the soldier is felling caught up in all of this pointless action.

1 comment:

  1. You did a really nice job analyzing what the the band was really trying to say through the lyrics. I don't think you would get the point they're trying to get across if you didn't take the time to slow down and truly understand the words their saying.