From one nighthawk, Tom Waits, to another American singer-songwriter - father to Jeff, and here singing about his early career when he worked as a New York cab driver, picking up a crazed customer. It’s a profession many musicians have undertaken to make ends meet in their early days. Here the fare is a pumped-up veteran straight from the Vietnam War, who pulls a knife on him before Buckley manages to engage him in some conversation. Whether or not this is based on a true experience is unknown, but it may have been partly inspired by Buckley’s Irish-American father, Timothy Charles Buckley Jr., who was himself a decorated war veteran, though from the Second World War, which is where the paratrooper line may come from.
The song is from 1972’s album Greetings From L.A. His tragically short career, dying from an accidental heroin overdose in 1975 aged 28, still brought nine studio albums and seven live LPs, as well as several later compilations. His style also developed broadly from acoustic folk, jazz and psychedelia, but here it is more rock-jazz-funk. That high expressive voice is supported by a brilliantly tight, pacey band, including Venetta Fields, Clydie King, and Lorna Willard on backing vocals, Donald Byrd’s drummer Ed Greene, and production and percussion by Jerry Goldstein, who originally managed Sly & The Family Stone.
I was a nighthawkin' in my taxi
On a cruise below the deadline
My fare was a shaky ol' lush
So I kicked it over and took off
Then he whipped out this switch blade
Straight outta nowhere level to my throat
He said: "You ever been over to the war boy,"
I said "Man I was a combat paratrooper daddy."
Well then he slump back cool and he pocket that steel
He said: "Take me down to Fourth and Main",
Ah that paratroop bluff always cools oh the red-eyed geezers down
Man that last block that cat was singing
Man he was sittin' in the backseat singing to me this song:
”I got my BAR boy
I got my M1 on my hip right
You better listen mr president
Oh boy don't you mess up with my war, boy
I wanna do I wanna do
Lord I wanna do the Blood Boogaloo
I'm just a Redneck son of a gun
I wanna kill me a gook before dawn.”
Ah, night hawkin' for my change …
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