It’s April, the weather is beautiful (here, at least), and the radio is playing the same five songs as last month. So let’s talk country.
I used to be pretty into country music, because it’s all my mother listens to, and I’ll still listen to songs that came out in the early 2010s… which is about the time it started becoming pop music with a southern twang.
Zac Brown Band pretty much summarizes “pop with a twang,” but “My Old Man” is a touching, gentle ode to the speaker’s deceased father.
He was a giant
And I was just a kid
I was always trying
To do everything he did
I can still remember every lesson he taught me
Growing up learning how to be like my old man
So, it’s pretty obvious where this song is going, but I want to focus on this undertone I picked up on the first time I heard it: Religious.
Allow me to plead my case first: we use the word “worship” (in English) to describe a relationship with a deity as well as someone we look up to (hero worship). Christianity calls its God “Father,” and there are father-gods (and mother-goddesses) in polytheistic traditions too. Finally, kids do tend to look up to their parents in deified ways, as though their parents are perfect and infallible. So, honestly, I think there’s a pretty good precedent for this.
He refers to his father as a giant…compared to his tiny self.
He was a lion
We were our father’s pride
But I was defiant
When he made me walk the line
He knew how to lift me up
And when to let me fall
Looking back, he always had a plan
My old man
“How to lift me up” is a pretty religiously loaded phrase (Think “You Raise Me Up“), as is referring to his father as a “lion.” The idea that he “always had a plan” also speaks to the omniscience of the Christian deity.
I know one day we’ll meet again
As he’s looking down
My old man
So this does refer to the Christian heaven, yes, but it also could be the presence of not just an earthly father.