How Waylon Jennings Forever Changed “We Are The World”
30 years ago today, one of the most recognized, appreciated, and parodied songs to ever grace the face of the earth was recorded at the A&M Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and recorded by some 45 musicians working under the charity supergroup called USA for Africa, “We Are The World” became became one of the biggest music singles ever released in history, and raised over $63 million dollars for African charities.
When the call went out that USA for Africa was looking for celebrity musicians to participate in the session, the response was overwhelming. Some 50 performers had to be turned away because there just wasn’t enough room to feature all the performers who wanted to participate. Even though “We Are The World” was very much an incarnation of the pop world, country music was well represented. Some of the early studio work on the song had been done at Kenny Rogers’ studio, and Rogers was one of the core artists of the “We Are The World” recording process. Willie Nelson also showed up, and was featured with his own solo in the song. But Willie’s old friend from Texas, and one of the biggest names in country music at the time, would forever shape a key decision about “We Are The World” that could have significantly affected the song’s eventual success.
If you watch the video for “We Are The World” (see below) or look at any of the pictures from the recording session, Waylon Jennings is nowhere to be found. That’s because even though he was selected to be one of the 45 artists to participate in the recording session, he walked out in a huff in a moment that would be the most controversial and contentious junctures in the song’s recording. This was despite Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles greeting all the performers as they arrived, and telling them to “check their egos” at the door, or they’d be “driving everyone home.”
For days before January 28th, 1985, songwriters Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and producers Quincey Jones and Michael Omartain had consternated over each line in the song, making sure it couldn’t be interpreted wrongly or would leave the song open for criticism. Subtle changes were made in the lyrics to make sure nobody was offended, or the singers weren’t portraying themselves as being judgmental or off putting. A similar song from 1984, “Do The Know It’s Christmas?” had failed to garner the support “We Are The World” eventually did because of criticism of the song’s approach on numerous grounds. Hoping to avoid similar controversies, “We Are The World” was painstakingly vetted.
But one artist out of them all was still not impressed with one of the key decisions about the song. When Stevie Wonder asserted that one of the lines should be sung in Swahili, Waylon Jennings raised a stink.
Why exactly Waylon protested the inclusion of the Swahili line is not included in the annals of the recording session, but we do know that Waylon was not alone in his opposition. Other performers in the session saw his point and sided with the country star, but were subsequently overruled by the majority. So Waylon, the consummate and eternal Outlaw, walked out of what was arguably the most famous recording session in the history of the world.
Some have used this Waylon Jennings moment to say that Waylon was being callous, or even racist. Remember, Waylon at the time was also the famous “Balladeer” on The Dukes of Hazzard TV show with its prominent Confederate Flag splayed across The General Lee. But if Waylon was being callous or racist, what had he volunteered his services to the a recording session benefiting Africa in the first place? Why would Waylon show such vehement and unpopular opposition to singing Swahili? Partly because he probably didn’t know how to sing in the language. Pitch issues had also bogged down the recording previously, when Waylon, Willie, Bruce Springsteen and others could not sing in the higher registers with the pop singers. Or it might have been because Waylon inherently knew having a line sung in another language might make “We Are The World” less marketable to America.
But the story was not over. Waylon Jennings walking out shook the recording session, and the debate about the use of Swahili raged anew. Eventually a new majority prevailed and the Swahili idea was stricken down. Why? Because Swahili was not even spoken in Ethiopia and many of the other African country where that majority of the “We Are The World” aid was targeted to go. Swahili is mostly spoken in African countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, south of Ethiopia. Stevie Wonder had secretly brought two Ethiopian women with him to the session to thank all of the participants at the end, and they weren’t Swahili speakers. So eventually the song went forward all in English—a decision that may have not only saved the recording session from bogging down in debate, but likely made the song that much more marketable and successful, and allowed it to become the super hit we know today.
As for Waylon Jennings, though some reports say he never returned, others say he actually did return later to lend his voice to the chorus once he heard the Swahili line had been axed. Waylon had also sung numerous lines earlier in the session, before the Swahili issue presented itself, so when you listen to “We Are The World,” Waylon Jennings is probably in there somewhere. He’s also still listen in the credits of the song. But either way, Waylon’s decision and his hardline stance forever influenced a song that has since become an anthem to the world (however cheesy it is).
January 28, 2015 @ 11:33 am
Wow! Great story. Only Waylon could shake things up like that.
I think the reason the song is so cheesy is because they TOTALLY preened over every line. Great songs are meant to be interpreted. “Do They Know it’s Christmas” is a better song IMO because it isn’t so manicured. But still this is an amazing recording session and I still shake my head every time I see Dan Akroyd in the video… What?
And surprisingly most of those artists are not still going strong (most) so they picked some real talent there. Unlike the remake a few years back.
December 28, 2021 @ 3:34 pm
Look at y’all insulting a song but taking adjacent credit for it at the same time. That means you don’t approve of MJ but you wanna ride the song’s successful back. Turns out MJ released a successful Swahili solo version in a box set. And his charity continued.
Lil Dale (2014 savin country music comentar of the yeer)
January 28, 2015 @ 12:13 pm
stevie wonder is a peace of crap fraud communist. an his music sucks. glad waylon wasnt fooled.
have a look at this
January 28, 2015 @ 2:45 pm
sometimes the ignorance on this site is simply amazing.
January 28, 2015 @ 2:52 pm
Jim: Dale isn’t real. He got nominated for commenter of the year (and won) because he consistently commented in character.
January 28, 2015 @ 4:03 pm
his sense of humor is stupid too.
Lil Dale (2014 savin country music comentar of the yeer)
January 28, 2015 @ 4:31 pm
thats subjective, slick.
December 25, 2018 @ 12:39 am
Damn you ignorant and stupid!!! Obviously don’t know any thing about music! Dumb ass American! How about you be stupid and finish letting your government screw you!
January 28, 2015 @ 12:45 pm
Waylon Jennings is my favorite country artist and I’m thankful he was not visually part of the schmaltz-fest known as “We Are The World”.
I completely agree with Bear, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid was the superior song and video. The song had soul, and seemed much more genuine than the overproduced “We Are The World”. Hear and see for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjQzJAKxTrE.
January 28, 2015 @ 1:03 pm
Listening to that song again after all these years, and seeing all that talent in one place at one time, brought back some good memories for me. To my ear, the song doesn’t take off until Brother Ray takes over, although everybody is singing their ass off throughout.
I would like to say one thing I am sure of. Waylon Jennings may have been stubborn
and hard-headed, but there was not a racist bone in his body. Waylon treated everybody the same way and that was usually openly and gracious. Perhaps he could
be callous, but I don’t know anyone who has been in the music business for more than a few years who doesn’t have a protective streak of ‘callous”.
The fact is that, in this case, Waylon showed good tastes and integrity. Singing in Swahili would have been pretentious and confusing. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, perhaps because Waylon felt so strongly about it.
I am bothered though, Trigger, that you would suggest that the Confederate Battle Flag on top of the General Lee in “The Dukes of Hazzard” had any racial connotation whatsoever. In its heyday, over 30 million people of all colors, ethnicities, and regions watched the Dukes faithfully. In the South, the show was beloved by black folks, red folks and white folks. It continues to be popular all over the world, in Asia, Africa, and South America. Until very recently, I had heard no complaints about the use of the flag on the car.
Most people, of whatever color, understand the context of symbols. When that flag is desecrated by racist groups or individuals, I resent the hell out of it. For I am one of
the 70 million Americans whose ancestors fought under that symbol, and I have no
reason to be ashamed of their effort. I am also one of those Southerners who was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and know that the leader of that movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., longed of the day when there would be racial reconciliation in our country. The healing, bridge building message of Dr. King is being lost in the divisive cacophony of Political Correctness.
“The Dukes”, whatever you may think of it, was a clean, positive, and fun show set in a place where there was no racism. Perhaps that is why it remains popular with people of all races.
As a cast member, I am proud of that. And as a Southerner, I am most proud of the extraordinary progress that has taken place in our region. But we cannot build a future together without fully accepting our past.
January 28, 2015 @ 2:04 pm
This is the reason I mentioned the whole Confederate Flag, Waylon potentially being racist thing:
When researching for this story, the one portion of the story I couldn’t find anywhere is an explanation of why specifically Waylon didn’t want to sing in Swahili. I found tons of other information, including why Waylon, Willie, and Bruce Springsteen at one point split off to complain about the key of the song, but no specific explanation about the motivation of Waylon’s Swahili protest.
However what I did find was numerous instances of people hypothesizing about why he protested, and either saying or alluding to how it was because he was a closed-minded country star. “Dukes of Hazzard” was still on the air at the time “We Are The World” was recorded, so there was some overlap.
When I was writing this, in lieu of having an explanation of Waylon’s specific reason for protesting, I figured I would address some of these hypotheses about him (or “Dukes of Hazzard”) being racist, because clearly if this was the case, Waylon wouldn’t have even bothered to show up. This dissenting viewpoint to “Waylon didn’t want to sing Swahili because he’s a racist country singer” hadn’t been presented anywhere else, and so instead of acting like that theory didn’t exist, I decided to face it head on and give my opinion on it.
Articles like this receive a lot of interest from folks looking for information about historical events, so I write them for everyone, not just my daily readers.
I hope this makes sense.
January 28, 2015 @ 3:47 pm
Well, I don’t quite get it, because I didn’t know there was a hypothesis about Waylon
being a racist. And it occurs to me that if someone was floating that, it would be ironic, for such a position would then pre-judge Waylon as a racist, i.e., to be themselves guilty of prejudice. To reach such a “hypothesis”, one would have to prejudiced to believe Waylon was prejudiced, right? It wouId mean that they believed Waymore was a bigot because he was from Texas, or because he was a Nashville singer not named Charlie Pride, or some other sanctimonious leap of logic.
And as I pointed out, the “Dukes of Hazzard” drew enormous Neilsen ratings from Black Americans. There was simply nothing there that was offensive.
Glad we cleared that up! Sort of…..
January 28, 2015 @ 6:13 pm
I’m not saying there is a hypothesis out there of Waylon being racist. I’m saying I saw the hypothesis out there while researching this story that Waylon’s motivation for not wanting to sing in an African language was motivated by closed-mindedness because he was a country singer, with allusions of how it may have been racially motivated. I’m obviously not saying that’s what I think. I’m simply saying that sentiment is out there. In fact that’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this piece, is because Waylon in some circles has been vilified for walking out of the studio during the recording. Now maybe I’m giving that mindset more credence than it deserves by mentioning it, but with all the political correctness and sensitivity surrounding race I don’t think any of us should be astounded that this hypothesis at least exists.
The majority of people who live in the United States believe the Confederate Flag is a symbol of racism, misguided or not. Combating that sentiment by explaining how it’s an element of culture is one thing. But to act surprised that some find it racist is another. It’s wrong that some people see it as a sign of racism, but it’s not surprising. The way you combat ignorance is with knowledge, and that’s what I attempted to do here by adding some context to Waylon’s involvement in the “We Are The World” recording session.
January 28, 2015 @ 7:14 pm
Not to put too fine a point on it, but to me there is not much of a difference between a hypothesis that Waylon was a racist, and the hypothesis that his “motivation for not wanting to sing in an African language was motivated by close-mindedness because he was a country singer, with allusions of how it may have been racially motivated”.
His “motivation” was “motivated”? (As usual, some sleep would help, Trig..)
I’m certainly not “astounded that the hypothesis exists”. Political correctness has given attention to all sorts of mindless absurdities. But as I pointed out in an earlier post, these hypotheses themselves are narrow-minded. Country singers are by definition “close-minded”? Johnny Cash? Waylon? Willie? Kristofferson? Dolly?
There is also a “hypothesis” that Elvis is still alive and living in Palate, Florida….
I would greatly appreciate some documentation on your statement that the “majority of people who live in the United States believe the Confederate Flag is a symbol of racism.”
I am sure that many do believe that, but I am not even sure that most black people feel that way. The flag has been abused by klowns in sheets, and we descendants of the Confederacy find that abhorrent, but the positive response to the “Dukes” and the “General Lee” trumps that argument. I try to make it my business to counter those simplistic views with information, as you say to “combat ignorance with knowledge.”
This exchange is very much appreciated. Thanks,
Bigfoot is Real (and wonders if Hank done it this way)
January 29, 2015 @ 9:52 am
Whether we like or not Waylon’s association with the Dukes of Hazzard had some unfortunate consequences and to pretend otherwise would be nothing short of delusional. As your article points out the flag on their car and what it represents to many is likely the culprit. For them it is seen as a symbol of slavery and treason and those numbers are significant.
Having had the good fortune to see Waylon perform in Tuba City (the western capitol of the Navajo nation) and how he loved the Dineh and they in turn loved him, I believe to the depths of my soul that he had not one racist bone in his body.
January 29, 2015 @ 11:44 am
I need also to respond to Bigfoot is Real (and living in Palatka, Florida):
Waylon Jennings wrote (with Richie Albright) and sang the theme song to the Dukes of Hazzard, which charted big time not once but twice.
Bigfoot says that this had “unfortunate consequences and to pretend otherwise would be nothing short of delusional”.
What “unfortunate consequences”?? Would you care to elaborate, since you have accused me of being delusional? What in the hell are you talking about? Nothing could be further from the truth.
If anyone were to have had “unfortunate consequences” it would have been we members of the cast. John Schneider and Tom Wopat have had great careers in film, television,and on Broadway. Wopat is a successful jazz singer and has sung many leads on Broadway. I was once in New York (as a Congressman elected by black folks) and John and Tom were both singing Broadway leads at the time. Catherine Bach is still America’s sweetheart and is currently on a “The Young and the Restless”.
None of us has ever had any “unfortunate consequences”, Bigfoot”. In fact, the show has been a great and lasting blessing to us.
To suggest otherwise is delusional.
Take it from an eyewitness…..
April 27, 2015 @ 2:25 pm
Waylon explained to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and others that Swahili was not even spoken in Ethiopia, country where the majority of the “We Are The World” aid was targeted to go. Waylon was 100% correct. He said if Swahili was used that he would not be part of the recording. They researched it, and concluded that Waylon was right on the money. The use of Swahili was scraped!!! Here is fact: 1) Waylon Jennings returned to the studio; 2) he joined the group; 3) they all recorded the song, “We Are The World”; 4) Waylon is indeed in the group photo in the rear (oh yes he is there); and 5) Waylon appears in the credits at the end of the recording because he was on the recording. END OF SPECULATIONS!!!
January 28, 2015 @ 2:36 pm
If the Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t racist, why didn’t Sheriff Little appear in more episodes?
Just kidding. Couldn’t resist.
January 28, 2015 @ 2:29 pm
Kudos to Waylon.
These group hug endeavors by celebrities can be genuine or they can be cheap self-promotion hiding behind the guise of a laudable charity.
I don’t know how many of the singers contrubted monetarily to the cause they promoted in the song.
I never have like the message of “We Are the World.”
The world is comprised of many repressive regimes of which I want no part.
I don’t feel comforted that Michael Jackson lorded over the message to ensure its perfection.
I agree with the Congressman about the Confederate Battle Flag.
It’s a part of history for many of us.
Gram Parsons used it as the stage backdrop during his live performances, and I don’t hear people casting allegations of racism against him.
January 28, 2015 @ 3:28 pm
Interesting article Kyle. Would have been nice if Waylon bowed his head for a change. I would have loved to hear his voice on that song.
January 28, 2015 @ 3:55 pm
What was that I said about “Integrity” in a previous comment? I reaffirm here.
January 28, 2015 @ 8:32 pm
Wow, there was a lot of talent in that room. It’s nice remembering when people on the radio could actually sing.
January 28, 2015 @ 8:39 pm
Just dropping in to say Daisy Duke sure was hot as balls.
January 28, 2015 @ 8:49 pm
I love this site.
January 28, 2015 @ 9:07 pm
I have found that many people, particularly from MD and points north, equate anything symbolic of the confederacy with racism and being pro-slavery. The fact that a person can agree that slavery is wrong, but fully appreciate other traditions of the South, seems to completely escape them.
I personally believe that yes, for many, the Confederate Battle Flag can symbolize tradition and not hate. But I also realize that many closed minded individuals will never see it as anything but a symbol of racism and hatred. Of course, many of these individuals also believe that the Civil War was only about slavery and don’t realize the Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was a political move to cut off European support of the South that was made three years into the war and only affected Confederate States. It did not abolish slavery in MD or other states that stayed in the Union, or were occupied by the Union (like TN). It even specifically excluded the counties of VA that became WV.
January 29, 2015 @ 1:45 am
I have seen this argument about the Emancipation Proclamation made several times. The reason why the proclamation did not extend to Union-controlled areas was that Lincoln did not have the constitutional authority to unilaterally end slavery within the United States. That’s what the 13th Amendment, pushed heavily by Lincoln soon after the Emancipation Proclamation, was all about.
January 29, 2015 @ 8:42 am
Exactly. It was a war measure. Also, Lincoln waited to announce the upcoming emancipation until the Union Army’s victory (or non-loss) at Antietam, so that it would not appear so much as a desperate measure.
Lincoln was not an abolitionist for reasons that you state, but he thought slavery to be immoral (“If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.”) and was against the spread of slavery to new states.
January 29, 2015 @ 2:14 pm
I fully agree with you. The Confederate Battle Flag is a part of American (and the Confederate) history. I take great offense in the “Hate Groups” adopting that flag as their symbol. To me, it is a symbol of my Southern upbringing……….HERITAGE, not HATE! I’m proud to have grown up in the South, and I have never owned a slave, never seen one, and never knew anybody that did. In fact a little-known fact is, that the very first boatload of slaves was actually brought to the Caribbean by a BLACK MAN! Google it.
I just wish the hate groups would show a little imagination and design a flag of their own that shows who they REALLY are! Leave mine alone. Just sayin’…………….
January 29, 2015 @ 3:19 pm
You know, I am smart enough to realize that I’ve been baited into this argument. Unfortunately, I am stupid enough to bite. What the hell? The south, historically, generally, are bigotry. What I mean by that is, most people from the south are/were bigots. Southerners were eventually forced to show respect to people who were not whites, however, history verifies they did so screaming and kicking every step of the way. The news just show three senior citizen who was arrested and spend thirty days in jail for ordering a sandwich in a restaurant in the south. The state of North Carolina (?) just apologized to those men. Yet that was a mild case of the history of racism in the south. No one want to rehash the daily degradation of what blacks encountered while living or visiting the south.
It is always funny how many people are quick to say the civil war was not about slavery. For argument sake, I’ll give that to you, for it is partially true. Abraham Lincoln accepted slavery only because he feared that emancipating the slaves would have created chaos in the country. However, if you examine his career prior to becoming president, you will see that he was generally uncomfortable with the idea of slavery. When the south forced his hand to war against them, he emancipated the slaves as his spoil of war.
January 29, 2015 @ 4:56 pm
Sonas, It was not just the South that was full of bigots. Racism in the North was just as real, and just as pervasive. It just took a different form. Abolitionists may have thought slavery was wrong, but they didn’t just want the blacks freed, they wanted them all sent back to Africa. They did not want blacks around. Racism in the North usually still takes that form. Northerners don’t care how successful blacks become in their life, as long as they not near them. Southerners, on the other hand, don’t mind being around blacks, as long as they are kept socially, and financially, inferior.
February 5, 2015 @ 5:13 pm
History shows that most of our presidents, including those who owned slaves were relatively uncomfortable with the idea of slavery, but feared the disunity it would cost in the nation.
Yes, your words are measurably true. However, it was white southerners who fought the hardest to emancipate slaves. History testifies that southern whites who detest slavery often migrated to the north to join the cause. Careful examination of those abolitionist, does reveal bigotry. Yet they were kind enough to fight for freeing the slaves, often at great danger to themselves and their families. For that, they deserve an honor and recognition that those in the south do not.
January 30, 2015 @ 5:48 pm
If I may hi-jack Saving Country Music for just one more minute, I’d suggest that you
read two books, “Complicity” by writers of the Hartford Courant, and “The Half Has Never Been Told,” by Edward Baptist. They prove, with extensive documentation, that
the slavery business in American was a Northern enterprise. Its profits built Wall Street and the American economy.
Dr. King had a telling anecdote about race relations in the North and South. “In the South,” he said, “white folks like black folks personally, but don’t like the race. In the North, it is the other way around.”
We all know that the worst race riots in America were all in the North, including the Draft Riots of New York City during the Civil War.
Lincoln thought that blacks should all be deported back to Africa and started that project during the Civil War.
Stonewall Jackson, on the other hand, started a Sunday School for free blacks and slaves in Lexington, Virginia, and taught them to read, which was illegal in the state at that time.
The more I study American History, the more I see its complexities. The Declaration of
Independence was written by a Southern slaveowner, Thomas Jefferson. Our Revolution was led by George Washington, the biggest slaveowner in Virginia. And the Bill of Rights was written by James Madison, another plantation slaver. All three became great Presidents. And it was the very next generation of Southerners who
led the fight for Secession. Robert E. Lee’s father was “Light Horse Harry” Lee, was
Washington’s friend and best cavalry officer.
The only good thing about slavery was that it brought the great African race to these shores. The only good thing about the resolution of the War Between the States is that it ended slavery.
Blacks are returning to the South from the North in record numbers, citing better race relations and a better quality of life. The South is the Sun Belt now, the most dynamic
economic region in America.
Just sayin’, is all. Take it easy,
February 6, 2015 @ 9:16 am
Ben, just a couple of issues.
Lincoln thought that blacks should all be deported back to Africa and started that project during the Civil War.
I don’t think Lincoln ever advocated the forced deportation of blacks. I know that he at one point earlier in the war encouraged and even admonished free blacks to resettle outside of the United States and not necessarily Africa. Central America was a suggestion that he made. Similar Climate and all that. Without question, he thought that blacks were inferior on some level, but I think his views on race continued to evolve.
Frederick Douglass once said of Lincoln something to the effect that he was the first white man he ever spent an hour with who failed to remind him in some way that he was a negro.
We all know that the worst race riots in America were all in the North, including the Draft Riots of New York City during the Civil War.
My understanding of those NYC riots were that the participants were mainly Irish (i.e, Irish Catholic as opposed to Scots Irish. My people, by the way. My mother is from the Old Sod itself and my Dad is half New York Irish.) and I would guess foreign born, as the Irish (once again, Irish Catholic and not Scots Irish) didn’t start coming to America in large numbers until after the Potato Famine that started in the late 1840’s. They would have been at the bottom of the economic totem pole with free blacks. They faced a form of racism as well. For example, some caricatures of the Irish in newspapers would show them with monkey faces. They didn’t not have “white status” at that time. I think a lot of them resented the thought of being drafted to fight a war for “the black slaves” as life for them had been pretty harsh up to that point, especially if they went through the hunger of the Famine. I imagine that if one has faced starvation and has seen loved ones face it as well, it might be hard to visualize what could be worse. Also, they resented that rich Americans could buy their way out of serving in the Army.
That is all. Take care.
February 6, 2015 @ 10:51 am
I doubt if anyone is following this thread anymore, so I fear this discussion is just
between you and I. I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I must concede your point that Lincoln did not favor “forced” deportation of freed slaves to Africa. But he did for many years support the idea that blacks and white could not integrate post-slavery and he was active in that effort, one promulgated by Henry Clay and supported by
the American Colonization Society. Perhaps Lincoln did “evolve” on the race issue, though even “revisionist” and pro-Lincoln historians believe the Emancipation Proclamation was a cynical, strategic war measure. It famously freed no slaves.
Less well known is his letter to Horace Greeley, in which he stated that if he could preserve the Union with slavery, he would do it. This reflected his statements in his First Inaugural Address that he had no intention of ending slavery, as it was Constitutional.
The Lincoln Administration did embark on such colonization efforts, the most notable the disastrous Isle A’ Vache settlement in Haiti in 1862.
Frederick Douglass opposed such efforts, saying “Mr. Lincoln assumes the language and arguments of an itinerant Colonization lecturer, showing all his inconsistencies, his pride of race and blood, his contempt for Negroes and his canting hypocrisy.”
We all know of the immigrant Irish rage in NYC while the great battle of Gettysburg
was going on in Pennsylvania. (It is dramatically covered in Martin Scorcese’s fine film,
“The Gangs of New York”.)
But then there have been two major race riots in Detroit and major riots in Los Angeles, and Newark, and Chicago, and Boston, and Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St.Louis and many more. These were not caused by disaffected 19th century Irish emigrants.
I am suggesting the obvious here. That racial discrimination and de facto segregation are endemic to the entire country, and the South has been its scapegoat. I would go
further and say that the reason African/Americans are returning to the South in
record numbers is that race relations are better in the South, and the overall quality of life is better and less expensive.
And again, I urge you to read “Complicity”.
This discussion has become tangential to Country Music, but the astonishing presumption that my friend Waylon Jennings could be thought a racist because he was involved with “The Dukes of Hazzard” is what provoked my ire in this matter.
February 6, 2015 @ 11:54 am
Thanks for the recommendation on “Complicity.” I looked it up on Amazon. It looks like a quality read and I will put it on my reading list.
Your comment about racism being a national issue reminded me of something Steve Earle said when I saw him once at the Birchmere. He was talking in between songs and getting political, as he is wont to do. He got on the topic of the Civil War and said that the notion that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery was “bullshit,” which was well received by the DC area Steve Earle Fan crowd. Then, he said “but anyone who thinks that racism is just a southern problem, well…, has never been to Boston, for starters.”
January 29, 2015 @ 5:23 am
Remember the time he walked off the Tom Snyder show?
You can’t be an outlaw without being an asshole to somebody, sometime. Plain and simple. No big deal.
January 29, 2015 @ 5:31 am
Godwin’s Law states that given time, chatroom discussions ultimately lead to comparisons to Hitler and Nazism.
Is there an equivalent law that the mention of anything southern leads to bringing up the Confederacy and Racism?
If not, I want to be the first to suggest ‘Dale’s Law’. Has a nice ring to it.
January 28, 2017 @ 11:59 am
Regardless of where this thread ends up I’m pretty sure that you win, lol.
April 28, 2019 @ 7:36 pm
I imagine if southerners weren’t so proud of that flag and what it represents, decided to stop waving it in peoples’ faces, and let it go into the dust bin of history, it wouldn’t be brought up nearly as much.
January 29, 2015 @ 12:12 pm
Willie not “able to sing in the higher register”? Ever heard Willie, author?
January 29, 2015 @ 12:51 pm
Unfortunately I was not in the studio at the time “We Are The World” was recorded. So I am relying on accounts of the studio session from others. And according to those accounts, Willie Nelson was part of a group who thought a portion of the song was too high to sing in. Just because Willie could sing in a higher register doesn’t necessarily means he wanted to. Maybe he thought it would be better for the song to sing it in a lower register, or maybe he just decided to stick with his non-pop buddies. I really have no idea. I am just conveying the information from direct accounts of the studio session.
February 15, 2017 @ 7:52 am
Willie doesn’t actually sing all that high. His voice is thin, which might make it sound high, but he generally sang around the same range as Waylon, if not actually a little lower at times. Notice how Waylon did the high harmonies when they’d sing together?
January 29, 2015 @ 2:04 pm
I believe Waylon DID return, but was never featured. If you look at the closing moments when the entire cast was singing in chorus, there is one millisecond shot of Waylon in the back row left…….singing. I fully agree with Waylon’s objection. To include the Swahili language in the song, would have led to them having to include many more, if not ALL of the languages spoken in Africa. Glad they took that out. Waylon was a friend of mine, and he definitely was NOT racist! (Or callous, either for that matter) Waylon was one of the most fan-friendly people I have ever met, and among the first to congratulate a fellow performer on a good job or a success.
April 27, 2015 @ 2:16 pm
Hack Martin ~ You are sooo right. Waylon explained to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and others that Swahili was not even spoken in Ethiopia and many of the other African country where that majority of the “We Are The World” aid was targeted to go. Waylon was 100% correct. He said if Swahili was used that he would not be part of the recording. They studied over it, and concluded that Waylon was right. Swahili was scraped!!! Here is fact: 1) Waylon Jennings returned to the studio; 2) he joined the group; 3) they all recorded the song, “We Are The World”; 4) Waylon is indeed in the group photo in the rear (oh yes he is there); and 5) Waylon appears in the credits at the end of the recording because he was on the recording. END OF SPECULATIONS!!!
January 29, 2015 @ 2:37 pm
What’s with all of these “way to go Waylon!” comments? Am I the only one that thinks he had a self-entitled and petty persona with a flair for melodrama? I think his music is good but the man himself always irritated me. If he wasn’t prepared to work outside of his comfort zone he shouldn’t have agreed to be a part of the collaboration in the first place. It’s especially disrespectful that he would just storm out when he didn’t get his way. Not that this was the first time he had ever done such a thing (and it certainly wasn’t the last), but the fact that there were so many other artists clamoring for a spot here only for Waylon to just throw his away is disgraceful to country music.
January 29, 2015 @ 3:35 pm
Amen! It is OK that Waylon stood up to record companies in Nashville. We love him for it. However, being a badass has it’s place. This was not his music. Regardless of how this song turned out, it would not have impacted his music or fans. It was a charity he was asked, or should I say, graced to be a part of. He should have showed some humility and checked his badass mental disposition at the door.
May 30, 2017 @ 1:06 pm
Exactly, it was a charity. That’s why Wonder shouldn’t have suggested the Swahili lines. He was crowbar-ing in his own political nonsense.
January 30, 2015 @ 8:51 am
So having “the Outlaw” stand on principle and be proved right is less appealing to you than to have “the Boss” with the same viewpoint but not enough spine to make the right move? Tells me pretty much all I need to know about both of them and you. Seems you are more offended by strong personalities.
I don’t buy the bit about “to high of a register” as Waylon could hit virtually any note you needed him to hit often taking the high portion of any harmony. That’s just a politically correct cover up answer for people who were on the wrong side of the argument trying to save face after the fact. At the end of the day it was the language issue as I see it. So, did they sing in Swahili?…. No, Why didn’t they? who had the vision to see it the right way from the beginning? Obvious answer. Who caved (because of personal want or being told to do so by their lable) so they could make sure their cameo appearance was on the video? Again, obvious answer. Waylon didn’t need to look over his shoulder to make up his own mind.
Sonas… I would love to see the breakdown of donations by those who were there. When the checks were being written I’m sure all badass was out the door where the rubber met the road.
January 30, 2015 @ 12:10 pm
You missed my point entirely. I wasn’t passing judgement on whether Waylon was right or wrong, just the fact that he saw fit to storm out like a child pretty much every time he didn’t get his way, here and elsewhere. I didn’t say anything about Springsteen, but maybe he was more respectful of the fact that he was lucky to be a part of the song in the first place? I’m not offended by strong personalities: John Wayne had one and I loved him to death. Willie Nelson has one and I love him as well. Same goes for John Rich. I mainly just didn’t care for Waylon’s attitude and penchant for melodrama.
“Tells me pretty much all I need to know about both of them and you.”
Ouch. That’s harsh, and over an internet debate in which we’re all commenting anonymously, no doubt. I would say that judging a person for such a trivial event tells me “all I need to know about you,” but then I would be stooping to your level. I’m sorry you were offended by my questioning of the great Waylon. Excuse me while I go read from his scripture and pray to his spirit for forgiveness.
January 30, 2015 @ 1:48 pm
Its not the first time your opinions are on the opposite side of the coin from mine. I think there is a general sentiment against Waylon’s personality in past posts to other articles you may have noticed. Also, pretty big leap to say he stormed out like a child.
January 30, 2015 @ 11:01 pm
So if my opinions are the opposite side of the coin I deserve to be called out and judged? And my statements aren’t a “leap” of any sort; they’re simply opinions, just like yours. I don’t like Waylon’s personality and there’s nothing wrong with that. Besides, it’s not as if he doesn’t have plenty of fans such as yourself to defend him in his absence.
April 27, 2015 @ 2:21 pm
Waylon explained to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and others that Swahili was not even spoken in Ethiopia where the majority of the “We Are The World” aid was targeted to go. Waylon was 100% correct. He said if Swahili was used that he would not be part of the recording. They studied over it, and concluded that Waylon was right. Swahili was scraped!!! Here is fact: 1) Waylon Jennings returned to the studio; 2) he joined the group; 3) they all recorded the song, “We Are The World”; 4) Waylon is indeed in the group photo in the rear (oh yes he is there); and 5) Waylon appears in the credits at the end of the recording because he was on the recording.
Another #BrokebackWeenie Episode Tiddy Bits | Rawhide And Velvet
January 30, 2015 @ 12:11 pm
[…] The first little record I ever bought with my own baby sitting money… […]
February 1, 2015 @ 3:10 am
Oates was there. Where was Garfunkel?
February 1, 2015 @ 6:54 am
Garfunkel couldn’t sing that low…..
September 21, 2016 @ 11:34 pm
In addition to performing on air for KVOW, Jennings started to work as a DJ in 1956, and moved to Lubbock. His program ran for six hours, from 4:00 in the afternoon to 10:00 in the evening. Jennings played two hours of Country classics, two of current Country, and two of mixed recordings.During those final two hours, Jennings played artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. The owner reprimanded him each time he aired the recordings, and when he then played two Richard records in a row, the owner fired him.
I don’t think he was racist.
November 6, 2016 @ 6:46 pm
It’s funny to think that Waylon Jennings knew what language was, or wasn’t spoken in Ethiopia. I guess he regularly toured there or had family there. lol. And, the Southern Battle Flag is racist, just like the Nazi Flag.
May 30, 2017 @ 1:03 pm
Good for Waylon. To all the media brain washed morons posting here that the confederate flag is “racist”. How can a damn flag be “racist”? Shut up already. You’ve been told it’s “racist” by the liberal idiots in the media. Steveie Wonder was trying to get his black panther bullshit into his song, period. If anyone’s racist it’s Wonder.
March 4, 2019 @ 5:55 pm
I hope you know Waylon was liberal himself, not in the democrat sense, but in the viewpoint sense
January 15, 2019 @ 5:14 pm
Stevie Wonder made a suggestion. It wasn’t a good one, but I understand his thinking, that it would be a tribute line to Africa, but I think it would have felt forced and as the article mentioned not everyone in Africa speaks Swahili. Waylon made his opinion know that he didn’t like the idea. And he felt strongly enough that he didn’t want to be in the song if they did it. Obviously Waylon made a good point to not use it and others decided he was right. That’s all it was. Wish Waylon could have came back and had a solo part. When you have this many creative artists who have written many of their own songs there is going to be disagreement. I like We Are the World because so many of the artists on it sang it with passion. I like Do They Know it’s Christmas as well. But I like We Are the World more because to me there are so many solo moments that shine. I know some people think We Are the World is cheesy, but I don’t think so. I just find it more straight forward and the message more tightly sewn, but as far as the deliveries, not corny at all, lots of emotion and feeling.
November 28, 2019 @ 5:04 am
Waylon was far far from racist in fact true story here. When Richard Pryor was burned from freebasing he called him up and asked if he can give you donation of his skin to be grafted on Richard Pryor and forgetting the color of himself and of Pryor. Also Muhammad Ali was Waylon Jennings his daughters godfather and he was very very good friends very close so if anyone thinks that he’s racist your a fucking moron
February 1, 2020 @ 12:58 pm
I have black grandchildren, live in the south and never felt racism until we traveled north. Just saying.
June 26, 2021 @ 3:02 pm
I happen to know for a fact that Waylon Jennings was not a racist. He had many black friends, including Charlie Pride and Muhammad Ali. Ali is the godfather to Waylon’s son, Shooter.
Many of you might not know that Waylon actually has a biracial grandson – Struggles Jennings, the singer.
Waylon’s wife of 33 years, Jessi Colter, was married to guitarist Duane Eddy before she married Waylon. Jessi and Duane Eddy had a young daughter named Jennifer. Jennifer was very young when her parents divorced. Jessi met and married Waylon when Jennifer was about 5 years old.
Jennifer gave birth to Struggles while she was an unmarried teen, still living with Waylon and Jessi.
Struggles has stated in interviews that he spent a lot of time at the Jennings home while he was growing up. Struggles and Shooter (son of Waylon and Jessi) were around the same age, and were good friends. Struggles says that Waylon was a “real grandfather” to him, and always took the time to build up his character, self esteem, and to keep him on a good path. Struggles viewed Waylon as a “father figure” in his young life.
When Jennifer was around 20, she had her name legally changed to Jennifer Eddy Jennings, She did this out of love and respect for Waylon, the man who loved and raised her as his own child.