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"the girls" by Neil Gaiman

'97 Bonnie & Clyde

(Mathers/Bass/Bass, 1999)


Baby your da-da loves you
And I'm always gonna be here for you no matter what happens
You're all I got in this world
I'd never give you up for nothin
Nobody in this world is ever gonna keep you from me
I love you

C'mon Hai-Hai, we goin to the beach
Grab a couple of toys and let da-da strap you in the car seat
Where's mama? She's takin a little nap in the trunk
Oh that smell, da-da musta runned over a skunk
Now I know what you're thinkin - it's kinda late to go swimmin
But you know your mama, she's one of those type of women
that do crazy things, and if she don't get her way, she'll throw a fit
Don't play with da-da's toy knife, honey, let go of it
And don't look so upset, why you actin bashful?
Don't you wanna help da-da build a sand castle?
And mama said she wants to show how far she can float
Don't worry about that little boo-boo on her throat
It's just a little scratch - it don't hurt, her was eatin
dinner while you were sweepin and spilled ketchup on her shirt
Mama's messy isn't she? We'll let her wash off in the water
and me and you can pway by ourselves, can't we?

Just the two of us
Just the two of us
Just you and I
Just the two of us

See honey... there's a place called heaven and a place called hell
There's a place called prison and a place called jail
And da-da's probably on his way to all of em except one
Cause mama's got a new husband and a stepson
And you don't want a brother do ya?
Maybe when you're old enough to understand a little better
I'll explain it to you
But for now we'll just say mama was real real bad
She was bein mean to dad and made him real real mad
But I still feel sad that I put her on time-out
Sit back in your chair honey, quit tryin to climb out
I told you it's okay HaiHai, you wanna ba-ba?
Take a night-night? Nan-a-boo, goo-goo ga-ga?
Her make goo-goo ca-ca? Da-da change your dia-dee
Clean the baby up so her can take a nighty-nighty
Your dad'll wake her up as soon as we get to the water
Ninety-seven Bonnie and Clyde, me and my daughter
me and my daughter
me and my daughter

Just the two of us
Just the two of us
Just you and I
Just the two of us

Wake up sweepy head we're here, before we pway
we're gonna take mama for a wittle walk along the pier
Baby, don't cry honey, don't get the wrong idea
Mama's too sweepy to hear you screamin in her ear
That's why you can't get her to wake, but don't worry
Da-da made a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake
Here, you wanna help da-da tie a rope around this rock?
We'll tie it to her footsie then we'll roll her off the dock
Ready now, here we go, on the count of free..
One.. two.. free.. WHEEEEEE!
There goes mama, spwashin in the water
No more fightin wit dad, no more restraining order
No more step-da-da, no more brother
Blow her kisses bye-bye, tell mommy you love her
Now we'll go play in the sand, build a castle and junk
But first, just help dad with two more things out the trunk
Just the two of us..

* original version by Eminem
from The Slim Shady LP [listen]

Tori Quotes

"It's the mother from '97 Bonnie and Clyde' [in the photo]. This is her right before she was killed. She's deeply sad. She absolutely loves her daughter."

Was it difficult knowing that, on a certain level, the song is Eminem fantasizing about his actual wife and daughter?

"No. This is not about the person called Eminem. I'm seeing a woman in a victim situation for whom the last thing she's hearing is the person she had a child with [Amos' eyes well up] weaving in that child as an accomplice to her murder. I'm seeing it as a mother."

So you've entered this purely as storytelling?

"Absolutely. This transcends Eminem and his wife, just like 'Me and a Gun' transcends Tori."

That seems like a valid defense of Eminem's work as powerful storytelling.

"This is not about storytelling -- this is about getting nailed if you are a fucking pig. On this album, I say words are like guns. And if you don't believe that, well, check-fucking-mate, cocksucker."

So you're basically calling Eminem out?

"This isn't about just one artist. All of the songs support the theory that the view changes depending on where you are standing. Let's understand the power of our pens. I'm all for people writing what they believe in. But this is about then saying that you don't believe in it -- that 'it's only words.' You cannot separate yourself from your creation. You can't. You have to be responsible for the shit you put out there." [Spin - October 2001]

"The scariest thing about 'Bonnie & Clyde' is that half of the world is snapping its fingers and has empathy for this man who is butchering his wife. As she lies bleeding half the world is dancing to this, oblivious, with blood on their sneakers. When you murder your wife, you can't control who befriends her..." []

"I've always found it fascinating how men say things and women hear them. In 'Bonnie & Clyde,' that was Eminem -- or one of the many people living inside him -- and he killed his wife. She has to have a voice. What intrigued me in the way he told the story was this rhythmic kind of justification. You have to have empathy for him. I did when I heard it, but I always chase what's on the other side of the camera... I would hear a lot of people say, 'They're only words, what is everyone going on about?' That's where I said I could pick up the gauntlet. I believe in freedom of speech, but you cannot separate yourself from your creation. We go back to the power of words, and words are like guns... Whether you choose the graciousness of Tom Waits or the brutality of 'Bonnie & Clyde,' they're equally powerful, and that's what drove me." [LA Times - July 1, 2001]

"When I first heard the song, the scariest thing to me was the realization that people are getting into the music and grooving along to a song about a man who is butchering his wife. So half the world is dancing to this, oblivious, with blood on their sneakers. But when you talk about killing your wife, you don't get to control whom she becomes friends with after she's dead. She had to have a voice." [Atlantic Records online - July 2, 2001]

"Eminem represents so much right now to a whole group of people. And he's a great poet. But when you kill your wife, you don't get to control whom she becomes friends with when she's dead." [Time - July 9, 2001]

"I was attracted to the wife, who was faceless and nameless. Everyone's grooving to this tune, and nobody seemed to care about her." [Blender - Aug/Sept 2001]

"...When Eminem was brought up, she spoke to me, her character, in that myth, spoke to me... So, that song, my interest became about that song, because, you know, the reality of a woman being in a car... staring death in the face is something that I... I personally resonate with. And we don't have to go any further into that. Eminem created a very powerful reflection of domestic violence. He made a choice as a writer, as all of them did, on the character that they would align with. ... It became... you know, it became... an overtaking, hearing how she heard it. So this version, that you hear on this record, Strange Little Girls -- go back to the same time-frame, go back to the exact same time-frame, in the car, as he is telling their little girl... what happened. And... you cut to the cameras moving now on the woman in the back and how she is hearing, or hearing her filter. She is not dead yet [in my version], she is almost dead. And you know, that is the tricky, tricky thing, when you kill your wife, you better check her pulse before you're cashing in on that will, you better know she's caught -- so she's hearing, this was a kicker for me when she showed me this, that her daughter is being made an accomplice. And will be divided forever between the two of them. Loving her father, loving her mother, like most kids do. She will grow up to be a strange little girl. Cut to the Stranglers song. And that's our little girl grown up -- end of story." [Polish Radio 3 - August 2001]

"To me, it's the myth about domestic violence, that a woman dies and a man is telling their little girl all sorts of stuff. The woman, as she's dying, understands that her daughter will grow up and become a strange little girl and divided forever." [Ice - September 2001]

"You know, if you're gonna be an activist you have to get the venom for the antidote sometimes. You have to weigh up what's more important -- them earning a tiny drop from this [royalties] or me turning his song into a little warrior girl. And I know what they all make. With this song there are three or four writers and a big publisher, it's not that much. It's not about the money here, it's about exposing a part of a myth that Eminem chose to write and he aligned himself with the killer. I had a laboratory of men as my control group. Not one of them asked about her. Some of them didn't care for the song, others felt empathy for him. The power is in the venom, the work. It's a reflection of our violent times. People have to not be oblivious to what is in this song. The woman's in the trunk hearing her little girl being made an accomplice to her murder, knowing her daughter is going to grow up carrying this. To know that she couldn't protect her daughter ... I had to give this woman a voice. She didn't have one. I gave the album to a friend of mine and she phoned up and said, 'My 17-year-old and my 15-year-old loved the record, but they had a real problem with track two. They thought it was really scary.' And I told them they weren't a stranger to that song. They said, 'What are you talking about?' Neither one of them had a clue and to me that says it all. I didn't change one word of the Eminem song. We gave him his say. And he wrote this. And now it's her turn, she is hearing, this is her vocal as she lay dying in the trunk. This is about showing that words can hurt and heal. It's about showing that you can take your power back as a woman or as a gay person. Clearly me and Eminem are on different sides politically, but bitching and moaning does not change anything. What changes things is when people become conscious and start questioning things for themselves. He sat the voltage at 220 and I wanted to put my hand on it." [Attitude - September 2001]

"When she spoke to me -- the woman dying in the back of the car -- she took me by the hand and said, 'You need to hear how I heard it.' I brought in Phil Shenale, who has done string arrangements on most of my records, and I told him that I was going to speak this word-for-word how she heard it at the same moment that you hear his version. They happen at the same time in song's world. Once we started turning over the stones of 'Bonnie and Clyde,' we followed the bloodline to Serge Gainsbourg's Bonnie and Clyde. And that took us to, 'This is a scary place to be,' and when you're the one with the 'ketchup' on your throat, it's a little different. This is how we heard it." [Next - September 7, 2001]

"I don't think there's any kind of transmutation when you attack [someone] directly; I don't see the strength in that. But, I think that as an activist, as we both know, you go to the poison to get the antidote and there's power in that and there's healing in that. When you take a man's words, you take his seed. So, it depends on what kind of alchemy you want to do. I choose to do the kind that hopefully shakes things up and brings some awareness and brought the woman a voice. To me, what I found in my research, with anybody that heard this song is that nobody asked about her. Nobody wanted to know about her. Whether people hated his character or aligned with his character, nobody brought her up. I just kind of stood back there and I said, 'There's something intrinsically wrong here.' Even people who can't stand what his character is -- and some, of course, found him charming -- neither [of these groups] heard her. I said, 'Okay, she needs to be humanized, because she could be our sister.' She could be you or me. I've been in a car against my will. And I've felt like the way to becoming the phoenix out of the ashes was to reclaim that piece of you that people hijack." [Next - September 7, 2001]

"I had to give a voice to that woman who is dying there. In the original we here the man explain to his daughter what has happened. From my point of view we see the mother, hardly conscious, but just capable of passing on what she hears her husband say to her child. So we go back to exactly the same moment. What got into her mind when she took my hand and showed it to me. How she heard that her daughter was pulled into his version of the story. How he made her an accomplice in the killing of her own mother. The mother realizes that her daughter will be torn up while she's growing up. She's asking herself what will be of her daughter. The daughter also has a spot on the album, she's the girl in 'Strange Little Girl.' This is what became of her as a grown-up woman.

What do you actually think of this Eminem song?

"It is a very complicated commentary on domestic violence. I don't really need to give my opinion on that. What interests me is that I got intrigued by the woman in the boot of the car. Because no one ever asks about her. Not even my laboratory of men. Some men immediately took distance from this song, simply didn't want to have anything to do with it. But others were crazy about Eminem's music. A very intelligent man said he felt sorry for Eminem in '97 Bonnie & Clyde.' He said, 'That bitch has done so much to him. It's logical that he has lost his way completely.' So I said, 'Alright, so you're obviously charmed by him. Eminem got you exactly where he wants you. While you know nothing about her.' Nobody in the laboratory of men asked himself who she really was. She had no name, she had no face and nobody cared about her. I was shocked -- because this could be a woman that I had known." [Oor - September 8, 2001]

Live Versions

"97 Bonnie and Clyde"
November 3, 2001 - Dallas, Texas

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