Pieces Of Eight
1979 | Rock
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"Oh mama, I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law. -- Lawman has put an end to my runnin', and I'm so far from my home. -- Oh mama, I can hear you a'cryin, you're so scared and all alone. -- Hangman is comin' down from the gallows, and I don't have very long."
- Reached #16 on Billboard Hot 100.
- The song has been used regularly to pump up the Pittsburgh Steelers defense before an important drive at Heinz Field.
- This is yet another notch on Tommy Shaw's writing credit belt.
THE HOT TAKES
You could listen to this song simply a reflection on the fear that comes with waiting for execution. You could hear this as telling of the inevitability of justice when breaking the law. Karmic justice, perhaps. You eventually get what is coming to you. But, the libertarian angle adds a bit of a new dimension: The unjust nature of law enforcement. Since the crime committed is not specified in the song, it could be anything, just or not. We live in the kind of society where "crimes" that hurt no one still carry a price that can land you in jail or worse. If you've never visited a jail, go do it. Ask yourself: Is it really okay to send people here for all the insane things police arrest people for?
I will always love Styx. Don’t @me bro! This song is so dang catchy and the line “Never more to go astray, The judge will have revenge today, On the wanted man,” says so much. First, for a law to be moral it must be a protection of natural rights. To have a transgression of a just law, you must have a damaged party or victim. Thomas Aquinas said it like this “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” Laws today have become a way for The State to entangle the average person in a web, so that if it’s agents decide they want you, it is easy for them to get you and seek their revenge. You see, in a State that has a monopoly on the law, and violence, and the justice system, and has monetized that system, it’s highly incentivized to punish as a means of revenue generation. All crimes in this system are crimes against The State. The only way for The State to be a legitimate victim is for you to be it’s legitimate property. This is why there is no justice in the Justice System, and all of us who refuse to be their property, and quietly do what we’re told, are renegades.
I think the most interesting thing about this song is the subjects obsession with the exterior forces around him. Fully aware of whatever wrong he has done he now lives in a state where all he can think about is the justice coming to him and how it's going to affect his mother. Crime doesn't happen in a vacuum. Is the song a metaphor for how everyone living in the America where we average three felonies a day unwittingly? Or is it a call to pay attention to the ripples of how justice affects the world outside of the criminal? In general unless his crime was murder why should he be hanged? Is that in any way restorative to the victims? Is the victim a state where his only crime is wrong-think? Sadly we don't know. What it does aptly point out is that there is a human being in the world committing a crime and there are very human reactions to this. I suppose my point is that the only kind of libertarian justice i can see is restorative. Locking people in cages seems like the worst option available for any outcome to me.