Song Thoughts: Can’t Happen Here


I was reminded of a song recently by my friend, Fred. We were messaging each other a couple of weeks ago and one of his messages went something like this: “You wanna write about a song, you should write about Rainbow’s “Can’t Happen Here”. Why he chose to remind me of that song is unknown. I guess I should ask him, but I would rather just run with it because I think I might know. 

“Can’t Happen Here” by Rainbow is a killer track on their 1981 album Difficult to Cure. Written by Roger Glover and Richie Blackmore, it was a departure from their typical lyrical stylings as its environmental  and societal messages ring as true today as they did in eighty-one. Maybe even more now in today’s world. Case in point, a small sample of the lyrics:

There’s people over here, people over there

Everybody’s looking for a little more air

Crossing all the borders just to take their share

Planning for the future

And we’re so abused, and we’re so confused

It’s easy to believe that someone’s gonna light the fuse

All that you fear they’re telling you, can’t happen here can it?

Recently, North Korea launched several missiles over our heads here in South Korea. The latest in the North Korean Rocket Man’s provocations and paranoid delusions. Is their supreme leader,  Kim Jong-un, the one to re-light the fuse Russia’s Putin lit over Ukraine? Can’t happen here can it? Yes, I’m afraid it can. 

And a few nights ago in the Itaewon district in Seoul, a crowd of over 100,000 Halloween revelers, excited about attending their first post-Covid celebration, packed so tightly in a narrow alley that no one could move or breathe. Over 150 people were crushed to death looking for a little more air. Can’t happen here can it? Yes, sadly it can. 

Walking home from the school where I taught today, I looked up at the Korean sky and I kept thinking about those missiles that just the other day flew silently and invisibly through that sky full of unhealthy, polluted air. I kept thinking, “Cooler heads will prevail”. I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail. I mean, cooler heads always prevail. They have to prevail so we can keep on keeping on. Right?

Why write about the song “Can’t Happen Here”? Because I believe we are all asking the  same question Glover, Blackmore, and I am certain Fred, ask in the final lines of the song.

It can’t happen here, can it? 

© 2022 Gregory Vessar. A Thousand Miles from Kansas. All Rights Reserved.

“Can’t Happen Here” by Rainbow. 1981.
Categories: Music, Philosophy, South KoreaTags: , , ,

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