“Chevy Headed West”
New Jim Stringer song remembers RFK assassination
40 years later
As the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy approaches (he died on June 6th of shots fired on the 5th) Austin singer/songwriter/bandleader/guitar virtuoso Jim Stringer is releasing his latest album, “Triskaidekaphilia.” This sparkling collection of 13 (of course!) new songs, perhaps Stringer’s most perfectly realized album yet in a string of stunning artistic successes, includes Chevy Headed West Stringer’s intensely personal, yet widely shared, recollection of the moment he learned of the shooting.
Stringer and a college buddy (“Harry”) were 20-year old Midwesterners facing the unhappy prospect of conscription for service in a war most of the country was rea-lizing could never be won. They decided to take it “on the lam” and jumped into an old Chevy with Midwest college boy’s destination of choice—golden and glittering California. On this youthful road trip, they learned that “three shots from a .22 had gunned the future down.”
As the phrase “gunned the future down” suggests, Chevy Headed West is Stringer’s recreation of that moment with its despair, its confusion and what the song calls “a jumble of feelings, we held tight to our chests.” It is not a historian’s analysis through the long lens of forty years. Stringer notes, “I would guess tens of thousands of young people had reactions very like ours, This was yet another sledge hammer of an event in a year that had already seen the Tet Offensive, the assassination of Dr. King, President Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek reelection and the re-emergence of Richard Nixon.”
Stringer wrote Chevy Headed West in the hope that it would be heard at this time of this significant anniversary year and that people who remember those days will recall and consider their own reactions to it. But also, that young people, just now for the first time in their lives, daring to believe that idealism might just triumph, can understand how it felt at that challenging time in that amazing year, to have the hope of idealism’s viability sucked out of a nation.
--John Reiser, The Reiser Report