songism I: Jimmy Wayne, "The Rabbit"

This is a folk-rock song in country clothes. It is a song about domestic violence. It is a song about revenge, about violence, about the legal system backing up revenge and violence. And it is a song about a Bugs Bunny cartoon possibly inspiring a woman to shoot her abusive husband.

Jimmy Wayne grew up in a very abusive and chaotic household. He had to live with grandparents when his mother went to prison. After she got out, she hooked up with a very abusive man, whom she married. His stepfather tried to shoot him when he was 13 but he pushed the gun away. The same man shot and paralyzed Wayne's sister-in-law, and beat and stabbed his mother on Mother's Day. She lived, but Wayne continued to live in group homes. A nice older couple helped him find Jesus, helped him develop his gifts for poetry and art and singing. Now he has an album out and a great haircut and looks like a sexier more soulful James Van Der Beek.

The kids in the song are all sitting watching Bugs Bunny, you see, laughing because that Elmer Fudd vs. Bugs Bunny stuff is classic all the way. The mother in the song sees it too, and "She just stood there washin' thinkin'." The chorus ends, "It ain't gonna be fun / When the rabbit gets the gun." At the end, when she is acquitted of her charges, "Even the judge himself was smiling." The song's last line is "What's up now, doc?"

This record, and Jimmy Wayne's self-titled debut album, are out on SKG/Dreamworks records, and they are working his biography as a troubled, abused, transient, poor, white-trash kid everywhere. It's almost as if you cannot know about Jimmy Wayne without knowing about "Jimmy Wayne." And one certainly hears "The Rabbit" with this in mind: This is a slightly fictionalized version of Jimmy Wayne's real life.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. I don't care, I don't mind. I like the song, I like Jimmy Wayne as a songwriter and as a singer, and I think he's got a hell of a lot of promise. I like "Jimmy Wayne" the myth, too--there are STILL a lot of kids out there who are just like he was growing up, I knew a lot of them when I was a kid in Oregon, I've dealt with them as a social worker and as a teacher and now, as a parent; they go to school with my kids, they ride their bikes around the neighborhood, they are everywhere, little Jimmy Waynes growing up all over. Not many of them will write poetry or draw or get checks from David Geffen. But some will, maybe. One of them made it.

I hope the myth is true but it doesn't matter if it isn't. I hope Jimmy Wayne becomes a huge star, I hope a million people buy his record and make him rich. I want to see what happens now.

No comments: