I never intended to discuss Joshua James’ meaning of the song, “Coal War.” I was inspired by it and I just loved how it was used in the beginning of season 4 of “Sons of Anarchy” as I’m sure many fans were:
I recall looking for interviews of Joshua James at the time I originally wrote this post, but not finding anything. There isn’t much out there now. But, if you’re wondering what the meaning of “Coal War” is, I’m guessing that given his folk singer/songwriter roots, James would probably like people to study the song, and let the song speak for itself.
Speaking of the song, “Coal War” is a 21st century hymnal, written in the style of the days of yore. It definitely conjured up images of the coal mining wars of old. The lyrics seem to suggest an overthrow of management, down to the “you burnt the house / but you came to bid him well.” It sounds like a Marxist-style revolution gone too far in the eyes of the story teller:
“What a thing to tell, ‘Store poison in the well’ / Just to say…’I ain’t cutting my hair till the good Lord comes.'”
That’s my guess. If you have something different or something to add, please let me know or throw it in the comments below. I’ve always been intrigued. The lyrics to “Coal War” are posted below.
Now, back to that old candy-apple hag…
I was at an open house for a buddy’s new career venture. A colleague was standing caddy-corner across a conference room table from me and, in front of potential clients, asked me,
“Do you think clients will like your hair?”
I told her,
“If my clients have issue with my hair they have bigger problems and I don’t want to deal with them.”
She snapped back,
“Well, they’re usually the ones with the money.”
To my reply,
“But it’s not worth the 18 months of headaches.”
I continued firing back at what I perceived to be a tactical attack to make one look better in front of clients yet all the while surprised that someone who preached about standing out would get on me for having something that probably stands out. As I ad-hocked a speech worthy of the great orators of yore, my buddy pointed out that I had made my point.
But if it wasn’t a moment that was meant for a good first impression, I would have said the following:
In his best days, my father was riding a tractor along the rocky Maine soil, tiling the land and learning to provide for his family. Shirt off. Hair blowing in the breeze. On his worst day, he was buried in a closed-coffin ceremony because his mother didn’t think he looked enough like the family anymore. Too much hair and gin blossoms. He was given 8 pallbearers. I picked them.
My two best friends from childhood both have had incredible feats of hair during their career. One has a beard so long that it’s now getting an incredible layer of blond over the thick brunette. I’m jealous. The other at one point had his hair down to his mid-back until a few years ago. He cut it because after almost three decades with it, he had grown tired of it. But as we were at our buddy’s funeral a couple days ago, surrounded by MC legends & business owners, you could tell he was jonesin’ to have it back. The first friend is an engineer. The second is an IT genius who works on 1 Wacker Drive in Chicago. Apparently, their bosses haven’t cared about the hair.
My cousins have all had incredible acts of hair in their lifetime. One still does. He’s becoming a craftsmen jeweler. The other is a professional lacrosse & football referee. Both married with families.
My mentor in college was a professor who lamented at the abuse his friends got in the 60s because they attended church with hair on their collars. He decided to fight from within. The man studied under Pannenberg and had the back of his hair just long enough to grace his collar. Pannenberg didn’t care. The bureaucrats did from time to time. I hope he enjoyed the last of his teaching days in San Diego free from such shallow requirements from scared individuals.
My heroes couldn’t get through a sentence without either a ‘fro or a pony tail. Dylan, Kierkegaard, Lennon. It was the likes of Redding and Cooke who had to keep it short so as to not deal with The Man. They all told incredible stories from which I’ve learned.
My mentors today have incredible feats of hair, from ZZ Top beards to ‘fros and the like.
My Project 03 partner, The Wolf, has hair down to his mid-back – what there is of it. Looks like a Samurai with a demeanor to match. Such follicle limitations has only resulted in him being one of the best PHP programmers the industry’s ever seen. My hope is that one day I can compliment him with my part of the project – including the hair length.
While at the boat, I had a boss once tell me he wouldn’t hire a great candidate because of his hair. He told the candidate that he’d hire him if he cut it and the candidate refused. “Can you believe that guy,” said my boss,
“Who would lose their job over their hair?”
I asked him, “Who would lose their hair over a job?”
And I still hold to that thought. And I always will.
It isn’t about rebellion. It’s about essence.
I looked at the calendar. It isn’t 1963 anymore. The signs, signs, everywhere signs are pointed to the fact that business is more about essence and synergy than regimented appearance. Those still stuck to the above the ear, off the collar uniform of business will be missing the speed of collaboration by which 21st century business operates. I know. Digital Marketing & Technology is sort of my thing. You should see some of those leaders’ hair styles.
A song came about that caught my ear last year. It was featured in Songs of Anarchy. Coal War by Joshua James. It sort of stated my intentions.
Lyrics to “Coal War” by Joshua James
I ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes. *repeat* I ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes- arrive upon the mountain just to see what we have done, I ain’t cutting my hair, cutting till the good lord comes. I ain’t open my eyes till we all walk free. *repeat* I ain’t open my eyes till we all walk free- till the color of our skin it don’t mean a damn thing. I ain’t open my eyes, open till we all walk free. I ain’t pickin’ up a paper till the wild wind blows. *repeat* I ain’t pickin up a paper till the wild wind blows- till we should say what we should say, till we know what we should know. I ain’t pickin up a paper, pickin till the wild wind blows. Cuz it’s a coal, it’s a coal war. Cuz it’s a coal, it’s a coal war. I ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes- arrive upon the mountain just to see what we have done, I ain’t cutting my hair, cutting till the good lord comes. I ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes- arrive upon the mountain just to see what we have done, I ain’t cutting my hair, cutting till the good lord comes. If we don’t walk free with hand in heart, it’s time. If we cannot see all we destroy, we’re blind. It’s not the hand that cuts, it’s the heart we left behind It’s not the hand that cuts, it’s the hatred deep inside. Five dollars and a head to keep, with dull black scissors and some kerosene; you burnt the house, but you came to bid him well. What a thing to tell, “Store poison in the well.” Just to say, just to say, just to say, just to say… I ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes. *repeat* I ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes- arrive upon the mountain just to see what we have done, I ain’t cutting my hair, cutting till the good lord comes. Til the good lord comes.
Or 1963 returns.
Then I’ll shave it like I did at Denom University in order to fight it. It helped those students after I left. They can grow it as long as they want now. ‘Just wish my mentor could have been allowed to stay in order to see it. And grow it.
If you want someone’s best, you want their essence. I grieve for those who never see that. Actually, I don’t. It makes my career easier.
photo credit: Pixabay free stock photos. Search for “Coal.” Great pics there.