Listening Room: The Indigo Girls - "Shame On You"

"Shame On You" and Shame On Us
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I just read an article about the state of Arizona to start requiring hospitals to check the immigration status of patients before admitting them for treatment. I was immediately drawn back ten years when I had recently been diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease with no health insurance. Lucky for me, better yet blessed, I had three decades of work in the music and film business and qualified for healthcare through MusicCares and The Actor’s Fund. Dr. Christopher Wang, an Asian-American, was my primary care physician for five years and I credit him with saving my life. He was the chief physician at a clinic that had as its main clientele, immigrants of varying status. I had little money and he would not have taken it if I did so I made him some CDs of some of my favorite music and tunes I figured he could find relevant in his work. The song that he talked about the most, not surprisingly, was by the Indigo Girls called, “Shame On You.”

Amy Ray and Emily Sailers’ song should be required listening for every politician, community leader and minister before they make rash statements about people in this country, legally or otherwise. Trust me, your .99 cents on iTunes will be well spent even if you don’t listen to the lyrics because of the power in the music.

But the lyrics are where the true power of the song lies:

My friends they wash the windows
And they shine in the sun
They tell me wake up early in the morning sometime
See what a beautiful job we done 
I say let's put on some tunes sing along
And do little all day
Go down to the riverside take off our shoes
And wash these sins away
The river said la la la, it said shame on you
The river said la la la, it said shame on you
I go down to Chicano city park
'Cause it makes me feel so fine
When the weeds go down you can see up close
In the dead of the winter time
But when the summer comes everything's in bloom
And you wouldn't know it's there
And the white folks like to pretend it's not
But their music's in the air  
And you can hear 'em singing, la la la, they say shame on you 
And you can feel them dancing, la la la, they say shame on you 
My friend Tanner she says,
"You know me and Jesus We're of the same heart
The only thing that keeps us distant Is that I keep fuckin' up"
I said, "Come on down to Chicano city park
And wash your blues away"
The beautiful ladies walk on by
You know I never know what to say 
And they'll be singing, oo la-la-la-la-la, shame on you 
They'll be dancin', la la la, they say shame on you, shame on you  Let's go road block trippin' in the middle of the night
Up in Gainesville town
There'll be blue lights flashin' down the long dirt road
When they ask us to step out
They say, "We be looking for illegal immigrants Can we check your car?"
I say, "You know it's funny I think we were on the same boat Back in 1694" 
And I said, oo la-la-la-la-la, shame on you
They'll be dancin', la la la, they say shame on you, shame on you Oo la-la-la-la-la, shame on you, shame on you La la la, shame on you, shame on you

As Arizona wrestles with it’s “Mexican Problem” and Mississippi decides to put the founder of the Klan on a license plate, Amy and Emily said it best several years ago with a song that is more relevant today than when it was written.