With the election just two weeks away, politics are on everybody’s mind these days, including the Milwaukee psychedelic folk songwriter Sleepy Gaucho.
Ahead of the election, he’s sharing a charged cover of a classic by the Austin outlaw country great Blaze Foley. Written 36 years ago, “Oval Room” was Foley’s commentary on the Reagan administration, but Sleepy Gaucho has localized and modernized the song, tying it in to Milwaukee’s history of segregation and this year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
We’re excited to debut the video, which you can stream below.
36 years ago Austin-based outlaw legend Blaze Foley released “Oval Room” on the heels of Ronald Reagan’s second term as president, a tenure that would further cement the War on Drugs, rapidly increase funding for the police force and nationwide “law and order,” and lay the groundwork for much of the structural racism that pervades American society today.
Foley’s lyrics condemn the Reagan administration’s corporate conservatism,
mass incarceration, and structural racism that plagued generations of
Americans not in the 1%: “Everywhere he goes, make the people mad…
Makes the poor man beg, and the rich man glad…he’s the president, but I don’t care.”
Fast forward to 2020 and Foley’s song rings eerily topical… Reagan’s incendiary successor has mobilized far-right hate groups, dismantled the EPA, spread disinformation like wildfire, and continues to sharpen Reagan-inspired “law and order” policies that incriminate and attack minorities while praising the violent behavior of law enforcement.
Today, on the brink of the 2020 election, the modern voice of folk artist Sleepy Gaucho contextualizes Foley’s classic song from the streets of Milwaukee, the most segregated city in the country. Sleepy Gaucho delivers an original arrangement of “Oval Room” with his own dystopian touch.
Accompanying the music are visuals of Reagan-era parallels to today’s political climate, affixed with footage from the Civil Rights Movement and today’s Black Lives Matter protests taking place nationwide. The video—coupled with Foley’s lyrics—offers a bird’s eye view of the blurry, bigoted state of American politics, as if the president had never went away.