Day One hundred and fifteen: "Truck Drivin' Song" from Running with Scissors
One of the things that I love most about American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic, aside from his lightly skewed, even “weird” take on the crazy world we live in, his his specificity. “Truck Drivin’ Song”, for example, finds Al returning fruitfully to country for the first time since “Good Enough For Now” way back in the Reagan era.
But it’s not just a country song. No, it is more specifically a truck driving song, a glorious, homey subsection of the country world devoted to rough and tumble tales of trucks and the hard-living, hard-loving, hard-drinking, foul-smelling men who drive them with its own legacy, traditions and set of heroes, like Dave Dudley and Dale Watson. Country might just be the most blue-collar, working-class form of music in existence. The trucking song might just be its most working-class sub-genre.
After all, trucking songs aren’t just about men whose lives and worldview are defined by their thankless, exhausting and tedium-inducing jobs. No, they’re about the jobs themselves, and aren’t afraid to scare civilians away with plenty of trucker slang. Because, really, there are only two kinds of people in the world: truckers, and everyone else.
Sure enough, “Truck Drivin’ Song” begins with a flurry of macho truck talk, with the singer singing in a voice deeper than he’s ever attempted before about his “diesel rig” being “northward bound” and it being “time to put that hammer down” on the “twenty tons of steel” in his truck.
Ah, but our country crooner isn’t just devoted to the open road and the grubby romance of the trucker lifestyle. He’s equally devoted to cross-dressing. In that respect, “Truck Drivin’ Song” is an homage to Monty Python’s thematically similar “Lumberjack Song.” Both toe-tapping ditties glean laughs from the incongruous juxtaposition of an almost cartoonishly manly profession (lumberjack, truck driver) and decidedly unmanly garb.
Al has never sounded more conventionally masculine than when singing about crotchless panties, feather boas, pink angora sweaters, mascara, high heels, nipple rings, rhinestones, sequins and chiffon.
“Truck Drivin’ Song” may not be the most reverent depiction of gender-fluidity, cross-dressing or working-class life but there’s nothing remotely mean-spirited about it. If anything, its singer should be commended for the care and dedication they bring both to their job as a professional trucker and their passion for cross-dressing fashion.
Like Merle Haggard, this feather boa-wearing, chiffon and sequins-loving iconoclast takes a lot of pride in who he is and what he does, both for a living and for fun. Truck driving songs are often defined by a sense of purpose, however negligible. At the very least, the truck driver has a job to do and people to please. In “Truck Drivin’ Song” that sense of purpose just happens to include making sure our hero’s make-up doesn’t run and his seams don’t show when he eventually makes it to whatever fabulous destination he’s burning rubber and hauling butt to get to.
Thanks in no small part to the expert work of pedal steel guitarist Marty Rifkin, whose resume includes credits with people like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Dwight Yoakam, “Truck Drivin’ Song” is an effortlessly authentic, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to both the open road and the art of making men look like women.
Al’s trademark genial affability and the song’s surprisingly nuanced understanding of the somewhat dissimilar worlds of cross-dressing and trucking driving collectively make “Truck Drivin’ Song” nowhere near as problematic as you might imagine from its premise or the decade of its release.
Having delved deep into Al’s oeuvre, I can readily attest that despite the very, very occasional gaffe in taste and judgment, Al has an enormous amount to be proud of and very little to feel embarrassed by, including this maddeningly infectious number, which, like so much of Al’s oeuvre, is infinitely better and far less offensive than it has any right to be.
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