Monday, December 2, 2013

Musical Monday - Merry Christmas from the Family by Robert Earl Keen

At first glance, my family appears markedly upscale. In my "real job" I am a lawyer who works for the Federal government. I am a graduate of the University of Virginia. I attended a private all-boys boarding school. My sister lives in New York, teaches English as a second language, and is married to a banker. She and her husband attended the College of William & Mary. My brother also works for the Federal government, is married to an engineer, and is posted overseas. He and his wife attended Vanderbilt University.

But the reality is that we are just a small branch off of a larger family tree, a sizable chunk of which is very much like the family depicted in Keen's song. And this is why I love this song - because I recognize and am related to the people Keen is describing. While Keen's lyrics do exaggerate for comic effect, they only exaggerate a very small amount. And it doesn't matter that Keen is from Texas, and my family is from Illinois and Indiana. The small town blue collar world that he describes is almost exactly the same - and is probably very similar no matter where you go in the United States, and probably beyond.

In the world of wood paneled houses and mullets, the Christmas party he describes wouldn't be out of place at all. And it is this core of truth that makes the song hilariously funny, at least to me. The song works so very well because it hits so close to home: I have been at holiday celebrations that were similar to this. I will say that I don't think I've ever been at one at which Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk, although I have been to more than one holiday celebration where the alcoholic cheer was flowing pretty freely, sometimes with moderately unfortunate results. But I'm pretty sure that I've seen some variation of just about every other vignette described.

One phenomenon that I have noticed is that people who don't have a family that is at least somewhat like the one described in the song simply don't find this song funny. It seems that unless you have family that you cannot remember how you are related to them, you're simply not close enough to realize that this song is so humorous because it is so brutally honest. I distinctly remember taking long car rides to attend family reunions and spending most of the travel time quizzing my mother so I would know how I was related to the approximately seven hundred and eighty-nine second and third cousins who would be attending the get-together.

Previous Musical Monday: Get Loki by P.L. Boucher
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Hobbit Christmas Song by The Doubleclicks

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  1. I grew up in a blue collar world. My dad is a professional, an attorney, but our family had lived in this town since the Civil War and we didn't have a whole lot of money. I feel comfortable in many worlds but I have to admit the blue collar world is home to me.

    1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: I love the song, and I have fond memories of blue collar Christmases.