"Goat Head" launches with a full minute of serene groove, but the laid-back vibes are soured as Brittany Howard zeroes in on a nightmarish hate crime committed against her interracial family. She recounts how, when she was a baby, a racist cut off a goat's head, put it in the back of her father's car, slashed his tires, and smeared blood all over his vehicle.
Said Howard to Uncut: "I had this cool music you think is safe, then I'm like, 'Who cut off a goat head and put it in the back of my dad's car?' You know what I mean? It's a very dark song; it's based on a true story."
The song finds Howard ruminating on her racial identity as she recalls growing up as the child of a poor, interracial couple in rural Alabama. She explained to the BBC that when her older sister was born in 1984, she was among the first wave of mixed-race babies in her hometown of Athens, Alabama.
"My mama would go around town, pushing my sister and I in a cart to the grocery store, and people would actually come up to her and lecture her. They would say, 'Do you know what you've done?'"
Howard added that though Athens was a "beautiful, peaceful country place" where people looked out for one another, there was still a racist element. The trauma that created for her family has always been part of her, which is why she wanted to write the song.