About The Song

Tim McGraw – Indian Outlaw: A Look Back

“Indian Outlaw,” released in 1994, is a song that catapulted Tim McGraw to country music stardom. It was the lead single from his debut album, “Not a Moment Too Soon,” and became his first Top 40 country hit. However, the song’s legacy is complex, marked by both commercial success and controversy.

Background

The song’s origins lie with songwriters Tommy Barnes, Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, and John D. Loudermilk. While details are unclear, it’s believed the song was written years before McGraw recorded it. Pitchman and aspiring songwriter Loudermilk is credited with bringing the song to attention.

At the time, McGraw was a relative unknown. He had released three singles prior to “Indian Outlaw,” but none achieved significant chart success. The fast-paced, energetic track with its romanticized portrayal of Native Americans resonated with audiences and radio programmers, launching McGraw’s career.

Musical Style

“Indian Outlaw” falls within the genre of country music, specifically drawing on elements of what’s known as “neotraditional country.” This subgenre emerged in the 1980s as a reaction to the pop-influenced country music of the previous decade. Neotraditional country aimed to recapture the sounds and themes of classic country, with a focus on storytelling and instrumentation that included prominent use of steel guitars and fiddles.

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“Indian Outlaw” embodies these characteristics. It has a driving beat with a prominent fiddle line and a catchy melody. McGraw’s vocals are powerful and deliver the story with a sense of bravado. While the song incorporates some electric guitar, the overall sound leans towards a more traditional country aesthetic.

Lyrics

The lyrics of “Indian Outlaw” tell the story of a mixed-race Native American (“half Cherokee and Choctaw”) who is on the run from the law. He’s fiercely protective of his “Chippewa” girlfriend and clashes with a “medicine man” who disapproves of their relationship. Lines like “I’m a rebel from the reservation” and “They say I’m going down in a blaze of glory” paint a picture of a romanticized outlaw figure.

The song’s portrayal of Native Americans has been a source of criticism. Some argue that it perpetuates stereotypes of Native people as warriors and savages. Additionally, the lyrics don’t delve into the historical struggles or cultural complexities of Native American identity.

It’s important to note that the song was released in 1994, a time when cultural sensitivities surrounding Native American representation were not as widely understood as they are today.

Cultural Impact

“Indian Outlaw” was a massive commercial success. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and even crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 15. The song helped propel “Not a Moment Too Soon” to platinum status, establishing McGraw as a rising star in country music.

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However, the song’s cultural impact goes beyond sales figures. “Indian Outlaw” sparked a debate about the portrayal of Native Americans in popular culture. It highlighted the need for more nuanced and respectful representations. The song’s legacy is a reminder of the evolving landscape of cultural sensitivity and the ongoing conversation about representation in music and beyond.

In the years since its release, McGraw has distanced himself from the song, acknowledging the criticisms and expressing regret for some of the lyrics. He rarely performs the song live anymore.

Conclusion

“Indian Outlaw” is a song with a complex legacy. It launched the career of a country music superstar but also sparked discussions about cultural appropriation and representation. The song remains a significant piece of country music history, serving as a reminder of the ongoing evolution of popular culture and its relationship with sensitive social issues.

Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤
I’m an Indian outlawHalf Cherokee and ChoctawMy baby, she’s a ChippewaShe’s a one of a kind
All my friends call me Bear ClawThe Village Chieftain is my paw-pawHe gets his orders from my maw-mawShe makes him walk the lineYou can find me in my wigwamI’ll be beatin’ on my tom-tomPull out the pipe and smoke you someHey and pass it around
‘Cause I’m an Indian outlawHalf Cherokee and ChoctawMy baby, she’s a ChippewaShe’s a one of a kind
I ain’t lookin’ for troubleWe can ride my pony doubleMake your little heart bubbleLord, like a glass of wineI remember the medicine manHe caught Running Water in my handsDrug me around by my headbandSaid I wasn’t her kind
‘Cause I’m an Indian outlawHalf Cherokee and ChoctawMy baby, she’s a ChippewaShe’s a one of a kind
I can kill a deer or buffaloWith just my arrow and my hickory bowFrom a hundred yards don’t you knowI do it all the timeThey all gather ’round my teepeeLate at night tryin’ to catch a peek at meIn nothin’ but my buffalo briefsI got them standin’ in line
‘Cause I’m an Indian outlawHalf Cherokee and ChoctawMy baby, she’s a ChippewaShe’s a one of a kind
Cherokee peopleCherokee tribeSo proud to liveSo proud to die

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