The Body Electric

Album: Small Town Heroes (2014)

Songfacts®:

  • This track finds frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra lamenting our fascination with the brutal poetry of murder ballads:

    "Shoot me down, put my body in the river,
    While the whole world sings, sings it like a song
    The whole world sings like there's nothing going wrong."
  • The song is dedicated to Damini, the woman who was killed on a public bus during a 2012 Delhi gang rape. Segarra told NPR: "They never released her name; but people called her Damini, which means lightning, because what happened to her sparked a revolution. It sparked anger in women in India, who felt like, this has happened for so long, and this has to be the last one."
  • The song title refers to Walt Whitman's 1855 poem, I Sing the Body Electric, which Sagarra said, "was all about [saying] every body is sacred."

    She added: "I wanted to have some kind of reference to electricity or lightning in the title. It all came together in that phrase."
  • Walt Whitman (1819–1892) is viewed as one of the most important American poets of the 19th century who preached an American vision of individual vision and human brotherhood. His work was considered very controversial in its time, particularly his 1855 free verse poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which scandalized the public with for its overt celebration of sexuality. Among the poems contained in the compilation are Song of Myself, I Sing the Body Electric and Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.
    Here are four other songs inspired by Leaves of Grass:

    "I Sing The Body Electric" by Cast of Fame.
    "Body Electric" by Lana Del Rey.
    "Out Of The Cradle" by Rush.
    "Song of Myself" by Nightwish.
  • American Songwriter magazine chose this as their best song of 2014. They said: "Alynda Lee Segarra takes more than 100 years of murder ballads to task on this standout from Hurray for the Riff Raff's Small Town Heroes, calling out anyone who has sung along with 'Delia's Gone' or 'Banks Of the Ohio' or 'Knoxville Girl.'"

    "'The Body Electric' is a bold reminder of the misogyny latent in those songs, which typically get a pass because they represent the prejudices of an earlier time."

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