There had been hundreds of unmarked graves that had been uncovered which detailed the continuous insight into the residential school system, which sought to assimilate Native American children in America and Canada. This resulted in physical and sexual abuse to proliferate. This legacy would be the reason behind the high rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide among Native Americans.

In the wake of the mass graves that had been recently uncovered, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss a song that can have a new, modern-day relevance.

The Logical Song was released in 1979 and it was based off of frontman Roger Hodgson’s experience in being sent off to boarding school. It would become the best lyrically written song at the time Hodgson earned the Ivor Novello Award by the British Academy of Composer and Songwriters.

The subject of the song in childhood enjoyed observing nature. He is then sent to a boarding school where he is taught to be cold and calculating in order to survive in the world. It ends with him having to register for the draft in order to not be viewed as a deviant. But, the major theme of the song, which is in the main stanza, involves the issue of identity that was taken from him by an irrelevant, indifferent educational system.

I am not Native American, nor lived in a reservation, nor went to a boarding school, so my perspective is entirely from an outsider’s perspective. Though, I can definitely see how this song could easily relate to any indigenous person in America and Canada.

What comes to mind is reading Professor Margaret Noodin’s piece about teaching Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe). There was a part where she discussed working alongside fellow Anishinaabeg speakers to translate the Metallica song Welcome Home (Sanitarium). It was submitted by Ojibwe students and it is easy to understand why. The song is filled with lyrics that can easily relate to the Native American experience, especially since two of the translators were themselves residential school survivors.

As such, it is not far from possibility to have a song translated into one of the many Native American languages that were silenced in the residential schools. Supertramp’s Logical Song is a prime candidate, as I will argue. Unlike Sanitarium, which illustrates life in an asylum, Logical Song takes place in a boarding school.

As for the beginning lyrics, it describes life as a “miracle…beautiful, magical” juxtaposed with singing birds. It is without debate that Native Americans of all nations hold nature with utmost respect. This is reflective of the reality that indigenous people hold stewardship over 80% of all biodiversity on Earth. As it can be expected, the ruling governments will do everything they can–as they always had–to gain access to those lands, because they hold natural and economic wealth.

It then transitions into the boarding school years, in which the subject must learn to be “responsible, practical…dependable…intellectual, cynical.” This has to involve a complete reorientation of the culture that the subject was raised in. This is especially highlighted in the lyric in the main stanza: “Won’t you please/Please tell me what we learned.” The pedagogy has no relevance to the subject and it is meant to be adhered to without question. This is especially the case to those residential school students, who had to worship Christianity and speak English, otherwise they would be beat or worse.

This is especially relevant in the imperative lyric forewarning the subject to mind his words, lest he be called a “…fanatical, criminal.” Indeed, the inclination towards restoring native cultures and languages would have been seen as savage by the residential school faculty. The infamous words of the General Richard Pratt “Kill the Indian; Save the Man” would be the basis of the residential school system that he would develop, by making the case that to be “Indian” was to be considered beneath dignity and civilization, while being “the Man” would be to resemble the white people in every possible way in faith, speech, or all else.

The main stanza involves the subject’s soliloquy about his own identity. He practically lies awake at night, thinking about his own place in a world that does not belong to him. His one of two requests is to “Please tell me who I am.”

I hope that many residential school survivors and their descendants would be willing to ask this request. If they are musically inclined, then it would definitely be important for them to cover this song in their indigenous language.

There are already covers in endangered languages that exist on YouTube. An example being U2’s With or Without You in Irish Gaelic. It is featured on the YouTube channel TG Lurgan, which features many other Irish Gaelic covers.

Of course, I would expect the cover of the song to be more somber in tone, since the original is vibrant with saxophones, whistles, and cowbells. It would most certainly be different from the Eurodance cover by the band Scooter, which would become the unofficial anthem for the Scottish hooligan culture.

Hopefully, there is more attention put on this song, since it was far from its time. If it is possible for endangered or extinct languages to be used in music covers, then it is with utmost importance that this song be covered in the indigenous American and Canadian tongues.

Sources

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