We here at the Houston Press, from time to time, like to bag on music we feel isn’t worthy of the praise with which it’s been bestowed; examples are here, here and here, and these are but a few. But I come here today not to bury a particular song, but to praise it.
Billy Currington, who plays House of Blues on Thursday, has been part of the mainstream country music scene for more than a decade now. During that time, he has released six albums, the last five of which have debuted in the top 5 of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. He has also produced a number of hit country singles – and make no mistake, country audiences are still loyal to mainstream radio, so this matters – four of which have hit the top spot on the country radio charts.
I’m not really a big Currington fan, nor am I some sort of dissenter. I’m familiar with his music, and for the most part it’s fine. A little clichéd, but fine. I’ve seen him a couple of times, and his live show is enjoyable enough. So I don’t really have much of an opinion on the man, save for the notion that he produced what may very well be the best country song of the past 20 years.
“People Are Crazy” likely wasn’t intended to be the juggernaut it became. Hell, it wasn’t even the lead single from Currington’s 2009 release, Little Bit of Everything. Rather, that distinction went to “Don’t,” which, to be fair, did reach No. 2 on the country singles chart. And while “People Are Crazy” was a hit – it ranked as the seventh-most popular country radio track of 2009 and was nominated for a number of Grammy and Academy of Country Music Awards – it’s not looked upon in hindsight as some country all-timer.
It should be.
Quality country music is based on a number of factors. If you can get a variation of God, love, heartbreak, alcohol, guns and dogs into the festivities, you may just have yourself a hit. Bobby Braddock and Troy Jones, who wrote "People Are Crazy," did just that after a drive through Alabama in which Jones tried to come up with three things that are universally regarded as true…well, at least in the South.
The result? “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.” No argument there.
“People Are Crazy” isn’t shot on some sort of grand scale. Rather, it’s a simple country-pop tune that checks in at under four minutes and mostly features an acoustic guitar in the background and Currington telling a very straightforward tale with a very simple lesson – treat people kindly; you never know who’s watching.
The tune begins with Currington at a bar, chatting with some random old man while throwing down a few beers. The topics are pretty standard fare for any man who’s ever conversed with another at a bar – women, politics, old stories, love and loss, and so on. The old man, who takes on a mentor sort of role to Currington throughout the course of the song, can only sum up life with one simple phrase – “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.”
Of course, anyone who’s familiar with the track knows the twist ending. Currington, who never sees the old man again, wakes up one day and picks up the newspaper. Turns out the old man was a millionaire, one who spurned his ungrateful children and left his fortune to that kind stranger he chatted with at a bar that one night. Currington, eternally grateful, visits the old man’s grave and lays a six-pack on it, then utters the song’s most famous phrase.
The beauty of “People Are Crazy” lies in its simplicity. After all, who occasionally hasn’t ended up in a conversation with a stranger that morphed into something meaningful? And who occasionally hasn’t looked back on a life lived and remembered both the good and the bad it entailed? Country music, perhaps more so than any other genre, has a way of eliciting such emotions.
Even David Letterman – not exactly known for bestowing faint praise upon, well, anything – said before a Currington performance on his former Late Show that “this song will change your life.” He ain’t wrong.
God is great? Beer is good? People are crazy? Damn straight.
Billy Currington and special guest Jillian Jacqueline perform at House of Blues (1204 Caroline) on Thursday, April 20. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.