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Meaning of lyrics: Who do you love?


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Not being born 'n raised in Louisiana, the lyrics of Bo Diddley's Who do you love are quite puzzling to me.

What is the symbolism in 47 miles of barbed wire, a brand new chimney made on top, made out of human skulls, and around the corner an ice wagon flew ?

Greetinx, and thanx in advance!

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Hi JumboXL, welcome to Songfacts :thumbsup:

I'm not from Louisiana either, but I'll just post the complete lyrics for the context...

Who Do You Love ~ Bo Diddley

I walked 47 miles of barbed wire,

Used a cobra snake for a neck tie.

Got a brand new house on the roadside,

Made out of rattlesnake hide.

I got a brand new chimney made on top,

Made out of human skulls.

Now come on darling let's take a little walk, tell me,

Who do you love,

Who do you love, Who do you love, Who do you love.

Arlene took me by the hand,

And said oooh eeeh daddy I understand.

Who do you love,

Who do you love, Who do you love, Who do you love.

The night was black and the night was blue,

And around the corner an ice wagon flew.

A bump was a hittin' lord and somebody screemed,

You should have heard just what I seen.

Who do you love, Who do you love, Who do you love, Who do you love.

Arleen took me by my hand, she said Ooo-ee Bo you know I understand

I got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind,

I lived long enough and I ain't scared of dying.

Who do you love (4x's)

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I received an explanantion for the 47 miles of barbed wire. It means he's been in jail a long time, walking outside in a courtyard surrounded by barbed wire for half an hour per day, at the most.

I started calculating how long he has been in jail: average dimensions of Louisiana courtyard, average time allowed in the open air in Louisiana jail, average speed of frustrated prisoner.....

Anybody any clue about the icewagon flew ?

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  • 8 years later...

Geez, you have not idea about history. He copied from an old workers song. 

In the early 1960's I needed to earn money to go to college or just be drafted right away into the Viet Nam War with little chance of return.

I grew up in the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma. From this ghetto, the only way I was going to escape was to go to college and that required dangerous work. So, I took a job laying barbwire at age 13. They had me work with a crew of 60 year old who had laid barbwire right after the Land Run. It was high paying work back then. It is hard, dangerous work that requires n good physical shape.. These two old guys showed me the ropes for a week. Basically, a post hole is dug to put some post-oak you cut nearby into the ground. No doubt, there is wildlife like rattlesnakes in the area. The sidewinders can be especially vicious. One one day, we killed around a dozen. These old guys carefully skinned them and hug them on the fence to dry. They collected them afterwards and took them home to put over the cracks on the shed at home. Yeah, we even ate them. Don't let anyone tell you they taste like chicken. This is before cell phone. We are out cross country in the Great Planes. Camping at night in the sand hills listening to the wild animals at night. My dad was a cowboy in Panhandle Texas growing up. On day of the Japanese attacked  Pearl Harbor, he acquired a fake ID, hopped the train to Denver and joined the Navy at 15. He told me that if I wanted to go to college and make something of myself, I should walk the miles of barb wire.. He warned me that if I ever felt discouraged, that I would just need to suck it up. It was different than this age of protecting fragile feelings. These old guys sang songs like the one I found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPjbFkT1zIY They also sang this song that became popular with some sightly different and expanded verses predating the 1950's Bo Diddly song. 

Then, I worked the rest of the summer alone. Had a old 35' pickup truck that ran on white gas loaded with a few miles of barbwire and staples in the back to lay. There were no cell phones or anyone checking on anyone. You go out for six days, go back and get resupplied. If you didn't come back, you were probably bled out or rattlesnake bit. This wasn't just white picket fence work, at some point, the mutiple support poles are set. then a stretch with a come-along. see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOg8FJvYfyI. The video shows a nice short fence with very stable conditions. The most important and most time-consuming part of a barbed wire fence is constructing the corner post and the bracing assembly. A barbed wire fence is under tremendous tension, often up to half a ton or more, and so the corner post's sole function is to resist the tension of the fence spans connected to it. The bracing keeps the corner post vertical and prevents slack from developing in the fence. This is a nice level short fence using modern metal poles instead of crooked wooden post over the rough terrain. Unlike the video, the barbwire is pulled banjo tight. it actually sings. Once in a while, the barbwire can snap. It is extremely dangerous work. Leather gloves offer no protection in a incident. In some cases.

It is a song about a summer of walking 47 miles of dangerous barbwire. The last of the cowboys laying wire that reduced the need for cowboys on horseback. We are all so civilized now because of it.

I worked dangerous jobs before and during college. Paid for a 4 year engineering degree by myself with no damn student loans. The males today give up their liberty, life, and manhood to the bankers in student loans, a form of slavery.  How could any of them possibly understand a song like this? Go to Columbia University and take a class on how to subdue your masculine features and live in shame to the lip of your masters of political correctness. It is just an old song about when men were actually men. (sigh). Don't worry, there wont be many of us old guys who will be around to remind the rest of you about this useless history.

For the ice wagon, reference ELI the ICE man. We use to cover that in our electrical engineering classes in the early 1970's.

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  • 3 years later...

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