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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Come and Get Your Love," a premier Native American success story in the music world

Redbone's indigenous background is also reflected through their simple, but profound lyrical message.


Tonight's post will take the scenic route to get to its destination. It will begin in Major League Baseball and end in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Trust me, it'll all make sense in the end... I think. I don't know for sure because 1) I'm writing the introduction first, and 2) I'm not you.


Alright, let's get to the baseball. Two nights ago, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series, claiming their second championship in Atlanta and their fourth overall. I for one was quite happy with the result, considering my disdain for their opponents, the Houston Astros, after their 2017 sign stealing scandal came to light. However, many were equally if not more displeased at the success of a team which employs a Native American nickname, an indigenous-inspired logo, and the Florida State University-originated "tomahawk chop" gesture and chant. For many, especially the Native American population, the sights and sounds of the Atlanta Braves make for an uncomfortable experience, and that isn't lost on me even while I celebrate the players' triumph.


Thinking about the Braves and stereotyped depictions of Native Americans in popular media led me to think about indigenous popular musicians, and how they may be seen as positive models through their embracing of their identity in modern American society. My mind instantly turned to the members of the band Redbone, who celebrate their heritage through various aspects of their artistry, including lyrical themes and costumes. Even their name is a nod to their origins: "Redbone" is Cajun slang for someone of mixed race, and founding band members Pat and Lolly Vegas had a mixture of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican heritage.


For today's post, I decided to break down Redbone's most famous song, "Come and Get Your Love," from their 1973 album Wovoka. While "Come and Get Your Love may not be nearly as explicitly connected to the band's indigenous identity, I chose to write about it because it is the most prevalent popular song from a Native American act, having reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. In that way I wanted to counter the non-example of the Atlanta Braves with a true example of indigenous success and presentation. In examining the song, I also found a deeper connection to native ideology within its lyrics than I expected.

Just as with last post, I opted for the full-length, album version of the track. The album cut allows for the main material to breathe more, and it leaves room for a slow introduction not present on the radio edit. It's a simple introduction, but it does a lot to ground the tune as it opens, acting somewhat like a slower chorus.


When the beat comes in, the song's groove and identifiability get a big kickstart. The drums and bass both play very straightforward patterns, but they're so easy to dance along to that they capture listeners instantly. A couple measures later, a new instrument joins, doubling the bass line at the octave. For a while, I thought this instrument was another guitar; then I wondered if it might have been a keyboard like a Clavinet, which Stevie Wonder used on "Superstition." As it turns out, the answer is neither of those: it's an electric sitar, and it later has a very important role playing a countermelody in the chorus. It's definitely an unusual instrument in the pop world, but it doesn't feel out of place at all because of how has a sound that's in between the two instruments I used to think it was.


Before I get into what I really want to discuss in the song's lyrics, let me clear up a big misconception: it's "Hail," not "Hey." Sorry / not sorry to everyone who made memes based on the incorrectly heard lyric. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Looking at the lyrics and how the band thought of them, it's clear that Redbone were influenced by their Native American heritage and beliefs when writing them. The titular love in "Come and Get Your Love" is a natural love, emanating from the earth and penetrating deeply within us. The first verse implores the listener to get out of their own head and embrace this love, which Lolly Vegas describes in the second verse as coming "from the main vine." The natural image of a vine, says Vegas, "connects to Mother Earth" and the complete love for which we all long. This love is universal, on a level both encompassing and superseding the religious and the spiritual. It's a sort of holistic belief system found in many Native American cultures that I particularly admire, especially in its connection to a natural world many generations of non-native settlers seem to have taken for granted.

 

I'd known "Come and Get Your Love" for a long time thanks to my parents' love for 70s music, but many my age only came to know the song thanks to its role in Guardians of the Galaxy. Redbone's signature song was one of a number of tracks from the 60s and 70s that made up Peter Quill's (Starlord's) mixtape, which soundtracked the film and was later released as such. I'm grateful for the ability of film and other media to help revive music, but I also wonder if songs' messages are lost when used in movie contexts. Here's hoping that's not the case, and that people took the time to appreciate "Come and Get Your Love" as a standalone work of art, because it would be a shame if its deeper meaning and relevance were lost.

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