Her husband was violent
Malicious and distant
Her kids now belong
To the state of Massachusetts
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John Quincy Adams' birthplace
Separated from Boston by the Neponset River and nicknamed the City of Presidents, Quincy, Massachusetts, has a long history of being the birthplace of great men. Former US presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were born in this Norfolk County city. The city takes its name from Colonel John Quincy, soldier, politician and leading member of the Quincy political family. For this reason, Quincy is pronounced 'kwin-zee' after the family name, although it is frequently mispronounced by outsiders. In keeping with its history of spawning politically minded citizens, Quincy also gave rise to one of the most successful American punk bands, the Dropkick Murphys.
Formed in 1996, the Dropkick Murphys blended Celtic music with political punk in the basement of a friend's barbershop. In 1998 the band signed with Hellcat Records, but it wasn't until their song “I'm Shipping up to Boston,” featured in Martin Scorsese's The Departed,
that the band achieved commercial and critical success. The following year the Dropkick Murphys ditched Hellcat Records and released their 2007 album The Meanest of Times
through their own vanity label Born and Bred Records. The album debuted at number 20 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling almost 30,000 copies in its first week. The first single from the album, “The State of Massachusetts,” became one of the 100 most-played songs on US rock radio in 2007. This song also made it onto Rolling Stone
's list of 100 Best Songs of 2007, claiming the number 83 spot.
Known for its political history, shipbuilding industry, progressive education methods, recreational beaches, and magnificent islands, Quincy hardly seems the venue for drug abuse and broken homes. But “The State of Massachusetts” tells a different story. The song is about an abused woman who loses her children to the State. Lines like “the poison stole your babies, the judges took your rights, you can have your children or the night” are direct references to the damaging effects drugs can have on families. The song begins with an Irish folk riff and quickly evolves into the signature bombastic punk of the Dropkick Murphys. The jaunty tempo and folk-dance feel of the song exemplifies a dichotomy often present in punk: upbeat music coupled with poignant, melancholy lyrics dealing with the darker side of life.
The music video for “The State of Massachusetts” drives home the theme of this song. The video was filmed in the abandoned Curley Auditorium on the Long Island Health Campus in Boston Harbour located next to the largest emergency homeless shelter, Long Island Shelter. While the lyrics tend to imply drugs being responsible for the broken home described, the video implies less about drugs and more about abuse, with scenes of cowering children and a man striding down a hallway carrying a belt in his hands. The video also includes footage of children playing in the decrepit auditorium, skipping ropes and tossing brightly colored balls against a backdrop of broken windows and peeling plaster. This juxtaposition makes for a powerful video, one which doesn't let you forget the true nature of the song despite the upbeat riffs and vigorous drumming.
~ Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include
Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and
The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.
The State of Massachusetts Songfacts
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