About the song

 Now that’s a song that brings back memories. Released in 2001 on his album The Road Less Traveled, it’s a tune that speaks to the heart of any country music traditionalist. Strait, a true king of the genre, isn’t afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve here, yearning for a simpler time in country music.

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But before we delve into the lyrics, let’s set the stage. George Strait rose to prominence in the 1980s, a period when country music was undergoing a significant shift. Smooth melodies and pop sensibilities were creeping in, a move that didn’t resonate with everyone. Strait, along with artists like Randy Travis and Alan Jackson, championed a return to the genre’s roots – the storytelling, the twang of the steel guitar, and the connection to everyday life.

“The Real Thing” embodies this philosophy. The opening lines paint a vivid picture: “I was on a bus comin’ back to us / From Atlanta in ’53”. We’re immediately transported to a bygone era, a time of travel by bus and simpler pleasures. Strait stumbles upon a Rhythm & Blues magazine, a symbol of the changing musical landscape. It’s here that the crux of the song is revealed: “And I found out the stuff they’d been playing us / Wasn’t made from grits and bone”.

The lyrics cleverly use food imagery – “grits and bone” representing the authenticity and earthiness of traditional country music. This “stuff” they’re playing, a not-so-subtle jab at the pop-infused country of the time, lacks that substance. Strait craves something more, something with a deeper connection.

The chorus, a powerful declaration, crystallizes this desire: “I want the real thing / Give me the real thing / Make it loud / I’ll make you proud”. He doesn’t mince words. He yearns for music with its heart on its sleeve, music that resonates with the soul.

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The verses continue with a trip down memory lane. Strait references legendary artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and rockabilly pioneers like Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. These were the trailblazers, the ones who laid the groundwork for the country music he holds dear. He remembers a time when music was raw, unadulterated, and spoke to the struggles and joys of everyday life.

There’s also a touch of defiance in the lyrics. Strait talks about not wanting something “watered down till it tastes like tea”. This is a clear message to the music industry, a plea to resist the urge to commercialize and homogenize country music.

“The Real Thing” is more than just a song; it’s a statement of purpose. It’s a reminder of what country music can be – a powerful storyteller, a connector of hearts, and a celebration of life’s simple pleasures. In a world of fleeting trends, Strait stands firm, advocating for the music that shaped him and countless others. So, the next time you hear “The Real Thing”, take a moment to appreciate its message, its homage to the genre’s rich history, and the unwavering voice of a country music legend.

Video

Lyrics

“The Real Thing”

I was on a bus comin’ back to us
From Atlanta in ’53
And I picked up a Rhythm & Blues magazine
Layin’ underneath my seat
And I found out the stuff they’d been playin’ us
Wasn’t made from grits and bone
And it would take more than the Crew Cuts
And Pat Boone to take me home

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I want the real thing
Give me the real thing
Make it loud I’ll make you proud
Or the songs they’d sing
I don’t want you under my roof with your 86 proof
Watered down ”til it tastes like tea
You’re gonna pull my string
Make it the real thing

I remember old Elvis when he forgot
To remember to forget
And when young Johnny Cash hadn’t seen this side of
Big River yet
And old Luther and Lewis and Perkins was pickin
And playin’ them songs for me

I want the real thing
Give me the real thing
Make it loud I’ll make you proud
Or the songs they’d sing
I don’t want you under my roof with your 86 proof
Watered down ’til it tastes like tea
You’re gonna pull my string
Make it the real thing