“The Rascal King,” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones
, was written about former Boston
mayor James Michael Curley
, who served four terms from 1914
. Curley was one of those figures who are regarded as both a saint
and a sinner (A hero or a hooligan/Well that part’s never clear)
. He made his name helping immigrants
, especially the Irish
(he nicknamed himself the “Mayor of the Poor
”). He engaged in many shady
political practices, and served two jail sentences for fraud
. The song basically addresses Curley’s confusing nature.
The puzzling character of politicians is still a social problem. When we most need to know the disposition of our representatives, the pictures presented have become increasingly unclear. We live in a time where our leaders have many different loyalties that jeopardize their integrity. The two sides of public figures leads to deception and people like James Michael Curley become almost mythic legends (A legendary character/When? only then/Where? only there).
The song mentions often that it’s hard to know if Curley should be revered or despised. In Curley’s case the Irish look past his fault and admire him for what he did for the Irish community in Boston. Other people believe that he abused his office and exerted an unfair influence over his citizens. Politicians like Curley leave the public with confusing images to interpret (The love of God/And constant contradictions of justice/With just a smile, wink or nod/What’s stranger, fact or fiction? /And never ceasing to amaze/On a regular basis/First hand into his pocket/Or first fist into the faces).
Basically, I see this song as a criticism of the lack of trust in our politicians. The information age has only led to less confidence in our public officials. The last line of the song sums up this lack of trust (Pride or shame, it’s all the same/Who’s innocent and who’s to blame? /Politics or just a game? /Well in the end they knew his name).
Witten for a History project in high school (I also showed the video!). See Skoob's writeup for full lyrics.