Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: Waitin' On JoeReleased: 2002
This song is Steve's own personal story about two people named Joe, his brother and his uncle Joe. The first part of the song is based on his brother, who tours with him while he's in Nashville. While Steve was playing shows across the country, his brother always seemed to be late. His Uncle Joe, his mother's little brother, was the mayor of Clarksdale and wanted to be the governor of Mississippi. He was never able to do so because when he was 35 he died from cancer.
In our 2010 interview with Steve Azar
, the Mississippi native explained: "When I wrote 'Waitin' On Joe,' it wasn't a song. The verses were three separate verses. I was really sort of poking fun at the beginning. Then I started thinking about what I was waiting on, and how I grew up in a town that flourished, between the farming and the river, it survived and it died and it lived and breathed from the water. And I had one particular friend whose dad spent his whole life on the river, and it really consumed him. He was never at ease at home when he was there. It's almost like the water had just taken over his soul. As kids we didn't see it. But as an adult I can look back and say that he was never comfortable on dry land. And he couldn't settle in. And then I had an uncle who passed away. He would have been governor of Clarksdale, Mississippi. He was this great man who cared about people, and he had a horrible battle with cancer. So I used a train analogy to be the cancer. So there was a lot going on in my head. And then one day this chorus came, and it just glued it together."
The actor Morgan Freeman not only appears in the video, but narrates it. And, as Azar told us, it didn't cost him a thing: "The video was really what set that song apart. Having Morgan Freeman in it was a gift. It was one of those things where if you ask, the worse thing they can say is 'no.' You never know. He had moved back to Mississippi. My mom grew up on Highway 61 in a grocery store, on top of it. And my cousin's got this famous bar-b-cue place called Abe's Bar-B-Q that Paul Simon and Elvis Costello and Robert Plant, you name 'em, they've been there. My cousin's bar-b-q place sits right down the street from where my mom grew up on Highway 61 and the 49 split. When people talk about the crossroads and all that, well, it crossroads in there. It crossroads in a lot of places in a lot of people's minds, in the history and the lure of the delta. But with that said, he had moved back to a town that was back in Charleston, Mississippi, that was just down the street. And we just called. Morgan heard the song and he goes, 'You know what? This song matters. I'll not only do the narrative, I'll be in the video.' And it was just a wonderful gift.
I was on the same label that Shania was, and they had spent gobs of money on her video at the time, and we had spent pennies on the dollar compared to that, and we had Morgan in it. (laughs) He didn't even charge me anything."