Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Indian Sunset

Since so many of Bernie's songs early on dealt with the American Old West of legend, it's only natural that at least one would deal with the Native American point of view. "Indian Sunset" is that attempt- in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually a leftover Tumbleweed Connection effort that was left off that album for some reason.

A young Indian brave, probably a renegade on the run from the Army, laments the loss of his lands, loved ones and way of life in the face of the encroachment of the white man- ultimately deciding he has no recourse but to stop and make his stand, which will most likely end in his death. Taupin delivers a set of excellent lyrics, deftly expressing the range of emotions his subject is going through.

Musically, this is as much the Paul Buckmaster show as any on the Madman album; it's a big, bold, cinematic orchestral arrangement that successfully evokes all the pathos inherent in the track. Elton on piano (of course) delivers another strongly sung melody.

Now, I'm as WASP as they come, so I can't presume to speak for the Native American perception of this song; to me, it seems like a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal- and other than the opening stanza, perhaps, avoids the easy Hollywood cliche about Native Americans. Others may disagree. One way or the other, I've always regarded it as a highlight of the record.

3 comments:

Sandi said...

I have wavered on this for years. Sometimes I'm appalled at Bernie's arrogance, the rest of the time I wonder how many WASPish, fellow Americans have never truly listened to or comprehended the words.

David Jones said...

Well, he certainly could be arrogant, but I don't get that as much as perhaps presumption. I still think he was as sensitive here as he ever was, no doubt the product of a thinking man seeing the other side of the Western stories of his youth.

I, too, though, have wondered over the years if the message got through or if most non-Native Americans simply dismissed it as more cowboys vs. Indians...if they even thought about it at all.

Michael Crawley said...

I'd be more happy if he kept it down to one Native American tribe. As it is he's all over the map and this song is unlistenable because of it.