How Did I Like This? Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw”

Tim_McGraw_-_Indian_Outlaw

Alex Russell

In “How Did I Like This?” someone looks back at something they loved as a child and wonders how they were ever so wrong. We start it off with Tim McGraw’s 1994 country single “Indian Outlaw.” Introduce yourself (or reintroduce yourself!) to the song and the video below: 

Almost everything is bizarre about Tim McGraw’s song “Indian Outlaw” except that it came out in 1994. This entire music video screams 1994 as loud as possible. This song is 20 years old, but even if you didn’t have a year to go off you could ballpark it with the video. What the hell was going on in 1994?

Music videos at the time had stories (every Aerosmith music video from the 90s is roughly 34 minutes long) presumably because every famous band in the 1990s looked like they belonged in the 1990s. Nothing looked good. Everything looked like a foreign language textbook. If you don’t believe me, dig up an old photo of yourself and return to this once you have died of shame twice.

Even if you don’t know country music from the 1990s –which you shouldn’t, but I’m from Tennessee, so I took it third period in school for three years– you probably still know Tim McGraw. He was one of the biggest names in music. He did a song with Nelly. He hosted Saturday Night LivePlaygirl magazine once named him one of the sexiest men in the world. I’m just listing the weird stuff from his Wikipedia now, so I’m just going to assume that you are at least vaguely aware of Tim “Live Like You Were Dying” McGraw.

He eventually became a massive success outside of his own genre (when country music started to show up in college students’ AIM profile quotes and every terrible bar’s “white trash” nights), but even before then he had chart success with songs like “Indian Outlaw.”

I don’t hate country music. I don’t really listen to it now, but a lot of the songs I liked when I was younger I can still listen to with a sort of wistful attitude. I regret that I was listening to Garth Brooks when other kids were getting music from their cool older brothers (television has told me that this is the experience of every other kid alive, so I have adopted this as true) but I cannot stand this song.

I pulled it up on YouTube a few months ago while listening to other things gone by. I found it, I watched it, and I was horrified. This shit is absolutely not okay. I mentioned I grew up in Tennessee, but not, you know, Tennessee.

The South has a complicated history (and present, and future, and any other parallel concept of time) with race but often the discussion of race leaves out Native Americans. There’s a certain blindness to it all that comes up whenever the debate over the name “Washington Redskins” flares up and a lot of us are forced to deal with the fact that whoa that is like, insanely racist that we say that!

But if the wheel of time on that change feels like it’s moving slowly, does this sound like something that only came out two decades ago?

You can find me in my wigwam
I’ll be beatin’ on my tom-tom
Pull out the pipe and smoke you some
Hey and pass it around

What would your guess of a release date be if you didn’t know? Would it be during Bill Clinton’s presidency? I damn well hope not.

People who didn’t grow up with this song get really uncomfortable when they hear it, rightfully so. I get uncomfortable with it. It’s racist — insensitive at best — but it’s also got this weird sexual element to it. A lot of country music talks about sex without talking about sex, but check it:

They all gather ’round my teepee
Late at night tryin’ to catch a peek
At me in nothin’ but my buffalo briefs
I got em standin’ in line

Gross, Tim McGraw. He followed this up with his first real monster hit, “Don’t Take the Girl.” That song is about a boy who learns to love a woman so much that he’d rather die than see ill will befall her. This song is… not about that. If you aren’t totally sold on hating this song, check out the dance mix. (Pro tip: Do not check out the dance mix.) It’s not even that different, but I guess this was too early for the Dubstep Indian Outlaw Remix… which I refuse to think about for another second.)

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.

Image source: Wiki

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One comment

  1. Why do u say half the shit u do. U feel bad for indians …. Ur ancestors took this land from us. We was here first n we got over it. Its whine bags like u who fuck this country. I like this song n I never felt any racism or discriminatory feelings. Quit whining get a life or a gf. U want sumthin to bitch about… Talk bout a job or a girl n u will get more attention but don’t talk bout how something makes u feel nobody cares u fuckin idiot

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