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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Goat Head’ By Brittany Howard

The following post originally appeared at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.

Best known as the powerhouse lead vocalist of Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard recently released her critically acclaimed debut album “Jamie.”

The album is named after her sister who passed away in her teens. Yet, although the loss of her sister deeply affected Howard, she said the record is not about her. “It’s about me.”

“It’s not as veiled as work I have done before. I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which is why I needed to do it on my own,” Howard added.

Her candidness includes relating her experiences of growing up mixed-race in the south. She shares those experiences on “Goat Head.”

When Howard was a baby someone slashed her dad’s tires and stuck a goat head in the back of his car. Howard sings, “Cause mama is white, And daddy is black, when I first got made, guess I made these folks mad.”

The story relayed in the song is told from the perspective of a child, who is trying to make sense of life in the south. She grapples with racial identity.

“I guess I’m not ‘posed to mind cause I’m brown, I’m not black. But who said that? See, I’m black, I’m not white. But I’m that, nah, nah. I’m this, right? I’m one drop of three-fifths, right?”

It is a clear reference to the Three-Fifths Compromise, a constitutional compromise where America’s Founding Fathers agreed to treat all slaves as three-fifths of a person when determining the number of representatives in Congress that would represent each state.

The song powerfully highlights the long-lasting effects of systemic racism and shows how music can help people deal with the wounds of injustices.

Listen to “Goat Head” by Brittany Howard:

CJ Baker

CJ Baker

CJ Baker is a lifelong music fan and published writer. He recently started a website chronicling the historical developments of protest music: ongoinghistoryofprotestsongs.com, and can be found on Twitter @tunesofprotest