Acclaimed singer-songwriter Steve Earle is the latest voice to join the flag debate, though his voice comes in the form of a good-old-fashioned protest song. On the track, titled "Mississippi, It's Time," the Virginia-born musician denounces the Confederate battle emblem's position on the Mississippi state flag, which has been a point of contention yet again following a white-supremacist gunman's slaying of nine African Americans at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17.
“I grew up in the South and lived there until I was 50, and I know that I’m not the only southerner who never believed for one second that the Confederate battle flag is symbolic of anything but racism in anything like a modern context,” Steve Earle said in a press release. “This is about giving those southerners a voice.”
Earle and his band, the Dukes, release the song for download on iTunes this Friday, Sept. 11, with all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The lyrics feature a number of powerful and to-the-point phrases, such as, Mississippi, don't you reckon it's time that the flag came down because the world turned 'round? We can't move ahead if we're looking behind," and "I wish I was in a land that never held a soul in bondage ever. I wouldn't have to drag these chains behind. Mississippi, it's time."
Near the track's close, though, Earle trades any semblance of metaphor for blunt outrage: "What the hell, Mississippi? Mississippi, you're out of your mind. Mississippi, God d***, even Alabama and South Carolina (have) come across the line."
As people from without and within the state push for the removal of the Confederate flag—and the dark ideals it represents—the decision ultimately rests with state lawmakers who can't seem to come to an agreement.
Earle, a pupil of famed songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, has had countless hits on the country music charts, both from his own releases, such as his debut record, 1986's "Guitar Town," and from hits for legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris.
Visit Southern Poverty Law Center's website to listen to "Mississippi, It's Time."