The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 October 2002

Nashville nattering

Jason White wrote a song called "Red Rag Top", and Tim McGraw cut it for his upcoming album; it's out now as a single, and it's getting some radio airplay, though some stations are distinctly uncomfortable with it, for lyrics like this:

Life was fast and the world was cruel
We were young and wild
We decided not to have a child
So we did what we did and we tried to forget
And we swore up and down there would be no regrets.

Later, when they're not so young and wild:

You do what you do and you pay for your sins
And there's no such thing as what might have been
That's a waste of time.

It's not too hard to see how this might make some people squirm.

Of course, there's as much in between the lines as there is within them. It's possible, for instance, to see the latter-day narrator struggling with this "waste of time" stuff while suspecting that he doesn't really believe a word of it; the mere fact that it's being mentioned at all shows clearly that what happened back then is still on his mind after all these years.

Some may see this as encouraging the termination of pregnancies. I'm not buying it. "See? Just go to the clinic, write the check, and all you have to do is remember what you've done for the rest of your life." Yeah, that should encourage 'em, all right. "Red Rag Top" is no more an endorsement of abortion than "Big Bad John" is an endorsement of mine accidents. If your local country station won't play it, that's fine with me — they shouldn't have to if they don't want to — but let's not turn this into the flip side of "Papa Don't Preach".

Posted at 10:30 AM to Tongue and Groove


This song is really beautiful. I'm a Christian and am 100% pro-life, and I think the message of this song is the same. If you listen to the words carefully, you will see that he even though he didn't think he'd have regrets about what he did, several years later- he still does. I really love this song. The message is so deep-here is what the hidden meanings are:

The songs begins by telling us how inexperienced these youngsters are by saying "We were just about as wild as we were green in the ways of the world." They didn't have a clue as to what they needed to do to survive in the world. Because of their immaturity, the girl winds up getting pregnant. So they were selfish and "decided not to have a child."

The contraversy starts on the way home from having the abortion. They "swore up and down there would be no regrets"... "but all the way home that night she said- Please don't stop loving me." This is a very integetral part of the song because she is making it vocal to him that she doesn't want to him quit loving her because of what they just did.

Next- the relationship fizzels as they "took one more trip around the sun, but it was all make believe in the end". This message is telling us that their whole relationship after the abortion was not real. They tried to pretend the abortion never happened, but eventually the relationship had to end because they could not forget what they had done. And then he realizes the wrong he did and he cannot believe that he did it when he says "I can't remember who I was back then."

Then, the most contraverial stanza is the following:
"Well, you do what you do and you pay for your sins.
And there's no such thing as what might have been, that's a waste of time.
Drive you out of your mind."

This is saying that having an abortion is a sin and that he is paying for it. Forever. And when he states "and there's no such thing as what might have been, that's a waste of time- drive you out of your mind", it is obvious that he is trying to convince himself that he can't worry about what he did. BUT- he does. He's singing a song about it for goodness sake!!

And my favorite part of the song... the clincher... is when he see the young girl in the cabriolet. Several years have past and he's looking back and remembering the young girl that he got pregnant. He then realizes that the abortion was what had torn their relationship apart. Remembering back to those days, he sings "I was back in that red ragtop,on the day she stopped loving me." The day she stopped loving him was the day of the abortion.

No woman can respect a man that would let her kill their child. This is a deep, meaningful message that makes people sit back and think. You can't take the words for just what they are. Listen to the messsage.....

I was twenty and she was eighteen.
We were just about as wild as we were green,
In the ways of the world.

She picked me up in that red ragtop,
We were free of the folks and hiding from the cops on a summer night.
Running all the red lights.

An' we parked way out in a clearing in a grove,
And the night was as hot as a coal-burning stove: we were cooking with gas.
Ooh, it had to last

In the back of that red rag top,
She said: "Please don't stop."

Well the very first time her mother met me,
Her green-eyed girl had been a mother-to-be for two weeks.

I was out of a job and she was in school.
And life was fast and the world was cruel, we were young and wild.
We decided not to have a child.

So we did what we did and we tried to forget.
And we swore up and down there would be no regrets in the morning light.
But all the way home that night:

On the back of that red ragtop,
She said: "Please don't stop loving me."

We took one more trip around the sun,
But it was all make believe in the end.
No, I can't say where she is today.
I can't remember who I was back then.

Well, you do what you do and you pay for your sins.
And there's no such thing as what might have been, that's a waste of time.
Drive you out of your mind.

I was stopped at a red light just yesterday.
Beside a young girl in a cabriolet, and her eyes were green.
And I was in an old scene.

I was back in that red ragtop,
On the day she stopped loving me.

Posted by: Tiffany at 1:25 PM on 22 November 2002

Moral: Actions have consequences. The price will be paid, one way or another.

You think maybe he talked her into having the abortion? Admittedly I'm poking around in the realm of speculation here, but it seems at least plausible to me that it wasn't her idea.

Posted by: CGHill at 3:08 PM on 22 November 2002

[Excised due to poor signal-to-noise ratio]

Posted by: SW at 12:08 AM on 30 November 2002

I love this song, but although I know in reality it's about an abortion, I also see it in a different way and am deeply touched by it. See, I am 19 and in March of 2002, at 18, I found out that I was pregnant. However instead of taking the "easy" way out and having an abortion, we chose to give our baby the life he deserves. In October our baby was born and my boyfriend and I decided to do the hardest thing we've ever done and place our son for adoption. We knew it would be difficult to let him go, but we had no idea just how hard it would really be. We miss him so much. So the part of the song "Life was fast and the world was cruel/We were young and wild/We decided not to have a child/So we did what we did and we tried to forget/And we swore up and down there would be no regrets" I can kind of look at in a different way. We did "have" a child, but we didn't keep him, so there's still a huge sense of loss. Although I know what we did was the best thing for our son, I regret it every day, not having him here with me. As I said, I know the song is about abortion, but I guess right now I can twist just about anything around to relate to how I feel.

Posted by: Sarah J. at 9:24 PM on 18 February 2003

I am trying to find a song that I heard about 45 Seconds of. The lyrics say something like: Would she have my blue eyes or your brown hair...it sounded country....please provide info on song if you know it.

Posted by: Jim at 6:00 PM on 7 September 2003