Sunday Music: “To Beat The Devil,” Take A Free Beer, And Jack His Chorus

Country music is full of story-based songs. Kristoff Kristofferson, maybe because of that name alone, had a knack for not just giving a twist, but doubling a story over backward and changing your entire perspective.

In “To Beat The Devil” a singer (most memorable to me at least – Johnny Cash) wanders into a bar and meets the devil. The devil tells him:

If you waste your time a talking

To the people who don’t listen

To the things that you are saying

Who do you thinks gonna hear?

And if you should die explaining how

The things that they complain about

Are things they could be changing

Who do you thinks gonna care?

There were other lonely singers

In a world turned deaf and blind

Who were crucified for what they tried to show

And their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time

‘Cause the truth remains that no one wants to know

Now, you’d be right to associate the devil with trickery and wrong to count out Kristofferson for thinking there wasn’t a path of salvation out of this one. The first twist is pointing out that he took a free beer from the devil and stole his song.

The second twist, which delivers the personal salvation that makes this song so enduring is the closing chorus,

And you still can hear me singing

To the people who don’t listen

To the things that I am saying

Praying someone’s gonna hear

And I guess I’ll die explaining how

The things that they complain about

Are things they could be changing

Hoping someone’s gonna care

I was born a lonely singer

And I’m bound to die the same

But I’ve gotta feed the hunger in my soul

And if I never have a nickel

I won’t ever die ashamed

‘Cause I don’t believe that no one wants to know

No direct God or Jesus message here as the foil to our devil, just the noble singer needing to feed the hunger in his soul.

It gets me every time.

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