Gatlin Brothers Defend Controversial Songs About Guns, Religion: 'Everybody Is So Sensitive'
"Young Jewish Lawyer" & "An American With a Remington," from new album "The Gospel According to Gatlin," have raised eyebrows.
The latest album from Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers is called The Gospel According to Gatlin, and as the title of the Curb Records release suggests, it’s an album filled with songs with an inspirational lean. But leave it to the Brothers Gatlin to come up with a few unexpected wrinkles.
“It’s not irreverent or sacrilegious,” Larry Gatlin told Billboard. “It’s just a little edgy. We didn’t get to have the success that we’ve had doing things like everyone else did; we did it our way. We weren’t trying to be different for its own sake. When you hang out with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Roger Miller when you’re coming up -- if you’re paying attention, you will probably do things a little bit different. They sure did. I’m proud of the songs. Our voices are still good, and we’re still hitting the notes.”
One song from the disc that has gotten quite a bit of attention is “Young Jewish Lawyer.” Some have deemed the lyrics controversial, but Gatlin sees it differently. “Christ was of Jewish heritage. He was a young, ordained rabbi. Those were the lawgivers. Some think I am being anti-Semitic when I say, ‘Get a good Jewish lawyer,’ but let me tell you: It’s not disparaging or anti-Semitic at all. The reason there are so many great Jewish lawyers is that their parents raised them in the law of God. It’s called the Torah. They hold them accountable and make them go to school. The Jewish custom is to have them take care of their families, and to work, and doing their job. It’s not anything derogative at all. I have been to Israel on three occasions. I know where it says in the Bible 'God will bless those who bless Israel, and will curse those who curse Israel, so I’m going to stand with them' -- unlike our president, who wants Israel to go back to the 1968 borders. I want a young Jewish lawyer -- the Lord Christ -- to stand and defend me. That’s what the song means.”
Rudy Gatlin backs up his older brother: "You can’t say anything about anybody or anything now. Everybody is so sensitive. The first time I heard it, I knew exactly what he was talking about."
Gatlin -- who is a frequent guest commentator on the Fox News network -- also pushes a few buttons with the candid “An American With a Remington,” which the singer co-wrote with Billy Dean. “We’d been watching TV one night and saw the bad guys burning people alive in cages and cutting their heads off because they wouldn’t convert to Islam. We didn’t like that. A week later, he said he had an idea for a song. We wrote it and put it on Facebook and got 16 million hits. Then, we decided to let some friends of ours do it because they were a bigger act than us, but their record company wouldn’t let them put it out. I was mad about it for about five seconds until I realized that we were supposed to record it.”
The trio has just released the single to Gospel radio, where Larry feels it can make more of an impact. “We released it to Gospel first, because what could be more Gospel or Christian than three Christians saying: ‘I will not convert. Do not mess with me.’ That’s all it is. We’re not threatening anybody. The most important line in the song is ‘I just want to live in peace … but you come after my family.’ We’re not threatening anyone. Just don’t mess with us. I’ve just decided I’m not going to be in a gunfight unless I’m the one with the gun.”
The album is also a showcase for those trademark Gatlin harmonies, which are in full effect on cuts such as “Down, Down, Down,” “Clean” and the stirring “I Have Not Been About My Father’s Business.” Of the latter, Steve Gatlin admits the lyrics are all very much true. “As country artists, we have not always been about our father’s business. We’ve not always been the best examples. We’re all imperfect people. That’s what the point of the song is."
The Gospel According to Gatlin coincides with the 60th anniversary of the brothers’ first performance together. Looking to the future, Steve says 2016 is open-ended right now. “We will see based upon what this record does. We have said that we’re going to work on more of a limited basis, but what that means is ... I don’t know,” he says with a laugh. Rudy admits that they will likely cut back on their schedule somewhat -- but don’t mention the word retirement. “I’ve seen people that retire or quit, and they die. The best example of someone keeping at it is Paul McCartney. He’s got more money than anyone in the world, and he still works. He’s a creative person. That’s what we do. We still want to walk on the stage and be creative. Look at Willie and Merle. They’re still singing and playing. I hope we continue to do that -- until they cover us up.”
Starting Friday (Nov. 20), Larry, Steve and Rudy will bring their musical stylings to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, as they will be headlining the resort’s “Country Christmas” celebration through Dec. 26. Steve is looking forward to the experience, which will allow them to perform extensively but stay home for the holidays. “We’re doing about 30 dates in a 45-day period. It’s a dinner and show, and we’ll do about 65 minutes. We’ll do about five or six hits, then go right into the Christmas music. We don’t travel, check in a hotel, or onto an airline or bus. We can work and drive home. That’s going to be a very neat thing."
The Gatlins follow in a long line of artists to perform at the hotel over the Christmas season, including Pam Tillis, Restless Heart and Lorrie Morgan. Larry says they are excited to take the stage. “We’ve been members of the Grand Ole Opry for many years, and Gaylord Opryland is one of the most fantastic places on earth. The opportunity to do this is very special. We love the road, but getting to stay home is a good thing. We’re honored they are letting us do it.”