Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

John Conlee’s Common Freedom

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the songs of John Conlee, who turns 66 today. Born and raised on a farm in Woodford County, Kentucky, Conlee was one of the original supporters and performers for Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid when it began in 1985. Conlee had already performed a benefit concert for the National Farmers Association earlier in that year, and he was quick to join Willie’s effort to bring attention to the plight of the family farm. He has since been a part of nine Farm Aid concerts. In an age of formulaic Nashville songwriting and glitzy personas, John Conlee seems to be one of the last of that breed of real deals, a bona fide country man, a farmer, who happens to write and sing genuinely good, country music. One of his consistent themes is family, and he bemoans in many of his songs the difficulty people have staying true to their love. For a look at one of Conlee’s contributions to the songbook of freedom, we can turn to one of these songs, She Can’t Say That Anymore, about a wife who has decided to stray:

She squirmed beside him,
her mind was made
Now she can’t say that anymore–
I’ve never done this sort of thing before 

At home her porch light’s burnin’
as she fumbles for the key
Tonight she jumps the fences
but she didn’t quite get free 

For Conlee, a key to complete freedom is a content domestic life, nothing fancy, just the simple, common pleasures. He is the consummate common man, as one of his oft-requested songs at the Farm Aid concerts testifies:

I’d rather chug-a-lug a mug
of Budweiser Beer
Than sip a crystal glass of wine
So won’t you make your mind up
to believe in me
And leave this high livin’ world behind

I’m just a common man,
drive a common van
My dog ain’t got a pedigree
If I have my say
it’s gonna stay that way
‘Cause high-browed people
lose their sanity
And a common man is what I’ll be

And I’m happy just being free
And I’m happy just being me

May that common happiness carry you through year 66 and beyond, John Conlee. And may your dreams for the nation to restore its family farms to a place of respect and dignity be fulfilled in your lifetime.


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