AUK’s Chain Gang: Jesse Winchester “Biloxi”

Rather than immediately hopping to another American state after Ljubinko Zivkovic’s stop in ‘Mississippi’ last week, let’s stick around long enough to visit ‘Biloxi.’ Biloxi is on the Gulf coast of Mississippi and singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester lived in Mississippi for a while during his childhood. He is also relevant to the previous ‘Ohio’ chain link, because he was so fervently against American involvement in the Vietnam War that he dodged the draft by moving to Montreal, Quebec in 1967 and became a Canadian citizen when he was 23. His early music career developed in Canadian coffeehouses and folk workshops in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

When President Jimmy Carter announced his intention to declare amnesty for those who had evaded the draft, initially the amnesty was not meant to cover those who had acquired citizenship in other countries or those who had deserted while serving in the military. Winchester’s manager convinced the president to include men like Winchester who had given up their citizenship to avoid going to war.

‘Biloxi’ (1970) isn’t an anti-war song, however. It is a pure early ‘70s folk song, a pastiche of sunny idyllic scenes along the 26-mile-long stretch of Biloxi Beach, which Winchester probably dearly missed during cold Canadian winters. The song was mellow and beachy enough to convince Jimmy Buffett to record a version of it on his ‘Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes’ album in 1977. There is a little boy playing in the sand, pretty girls dancing in the water, and after nightfall, Stars can see Biloxi / Stars can find their faces in the sea / Stars can see Biloxi / We are walking down beside the ocean / We are splashing naked in the water.” 

About Kimberly Bright 62 Articles
Indiana native, freelance writer specializing in British, Canadian, and American music and cultural history, flyover states, session musicians, overlooked and unsung artists. Author of 'Chris Spedding: Reluctant Guitar Hero.' You can contact her at kimberly.bright@americana-uk.com.

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