John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

‘Hitler Lives’ Is One Timeless Song

A classic song of warning by Rosalie Allen and The Black River Riders.

By - Jan 22nd, 2021 03:30 pm
Tear gas outside the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021. Photo by Tyler Merbler from USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Tear gas outside the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021. Photo by Tyler Merbler from USA, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

We have a new president, but it’s hard to forget what happened under the previous one. When you have the President of the United States whipping up his drooling fan club before instructing them to go to the Capitol to try to stop the counting of votes, it shows this country is not as immune to authoritarian regimes as we once thought.

Which brings me to a timely song I first heard in a great version by The Skeletons, or was it, The Morells? (Both bands had the sterling wit, Lou Whitney and world’s greatest guitarist, D Clinton Thompson.) Their version is nowhere to be found, but here is the original version of “Hitler Lives” by Rosalie Allen and The Black River Riders.

As you probably guessed, it’s not an homage to Der Fuhrer and all that was wonderful about him. Instead, it warns us Hitler can reappear — anywhere — when we least expect him.

We hear lots of talk today
Up and down life’s broad highway
About whether Hitler died in old Berlin.
Here’s one thing I’m telling you
You can bet your life it’s true
If we forget our boys then Hitler lives again.

Hitler lives… if we hurt our fellow man.
Hitler lives… if we forget.
Those who fought were heroes, died
That our flag might float on high.
If we forget, Hitler lives, Hitler lives.

I see buddies here and there
Mighty lonesome in despair
Got no home and got no job and got no friends.
If their trouble you ignore
If you turn them from your door
Then you can tell the world that Hitler lives again.

Is your memory so numb
You’ve forgotten ’41
When the world was all aflame from shore to shore?
You can count on this my friend
You let Hitler live again
If you should ever turn a hero from your door.

© Bill Crouch / Red River Dave

The writers seemed to have unintentionally created an all purpose song about the danger of authoritarianism. Just add a verse or two about your supreme leader wannabe du jour, and his or her ugly tactics, add police brutality and an insurrection or two and you’re good to go. When songs like this work across generations, it makes you wonder why.

I felt bad when Donald Trump got elected. My wife, and many women I talked to, shed tears the next morning. Most everything Trump said and did since that day were predictably horrible. But inciting his mob to ransack the Capitol merits the word evil, and his lack of empathy, a classic trait of sociopaths, was on display in his video love letter.

But Trump is gone now, and it’s his turn to cry. Still he has talked about running again in 2024 and it’s clear he still has power in the Republican Party. And even if he does eventually fade away, the example of his presidency remains a chilling example of what can go wrong, even in America. I could imagine a rewrite of this song warning future generations of the dangers of deranged reality show celebrities. “Trump Lives,” anybody?

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