Goodbye Earl

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"Goodbye Earl"
DixieChicks goodbye earl.jpg
Single by Dixie Chicks
from the album Fly
B-side"Stand by Your Man"
ReleasedFebruary 28, 2000
Songwriter(s)Dennis Linde
Dixie Chicks singles chronology
"Cowboy Take Me Away"
"Goodbye Earl"
"Cold Day in July"
Music video
"Goodbye Earl" on YouTube

"Goodbye Earl", written by Dennis Linde, is a country music song. Initially recorded by the band Sons of the Desert for an unreleased album in the late 1990s, the song gained fame when it was recorded by Dixie Chicks on their fifth studio album, Fly. After charting from unsolicited airplay in late 1999, the song was released as that album's third single in 2000, peaking at #13 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts. The CD single includes a 'B-Side' cover of "Stand By Your Man" by Tammy Wynette.


Linde had written several songs that included a character by the name of "Earl," most notably "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer" by Sammy Kershaw (wherein Earl is the "other man" of the narrative, described as a man who rebuilds automobile engines and is nicknamed "the Charlie Daniels of the torque wrench," which stems from his rather fast ability at his profession). This song was (in part) an effort to kill off the "Earl" character that had been used in past songs.


Linde plays acoustic guitar on the song, while producers Blake Chancey and Paul Worley, along with Charlie Robison, provide backing vocals.[1] It is composed in the key of C major with a vocal range of G3-C5 and a main chord pattern of C-F/C-C-Gsus4.[2]

Using black comedy,[3] the song tells the story of two best friends from high school, and what became of them after graduation. Mary Ann leaves the town where they were raised (probably to pursue her fortune), while Wanda settles on marrying a man named "Earl," who physically abuses her repeatedly. Wanda files for divorce based on the domestic violence, but "Earl walked right through that restraining order and put her in intensive care." Mary Ann flies in from Atlanta, Georgia, and after a discussion, the women decide "that Earl had to die," and they kill him, by poisoning or drugging his black-eyed peas (most likely cyanide, as it is known to kill quickly when consumed). The song plot has been described as a cross between the films Fried Green Tomatoes and Thelma and Louise.[4]


The violent themes of the song caused some radio stations to approach playing the song with caution. According to an April 2000 Los Angeles Times article, at the time of publication 20 of the 149 country radio stations tracked by Radio & Records were not playing the track due to hesitation from programmers.[5] KRTY in San Jose, California attracted local media attention for banning the song and holding an on-air discussion on March 13, 2000 about the decision.[6]

However, the debate also centered around creating awareness of domestic violence issues. Rita Smith, executive director of Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence argued it fomented necessary public dialogue around a taboo subject. “Many battered women feel trapped and feel that violence is their only option to get away from the abuser,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “We don’t want them feeling that way. We want them to know there are resources available to them. . . . We want stations who play the record to tell their listeners that there is a hotline number they can call if they’ve been a victim of violence.”[7]

Many stations decided to provide phone numbers to domestic violence hotlines whenever they aired the song.[8] KRTY later reversed their decision and donated to a domestic violence shelter for each broadcast of the song.[9] USA Today reported in April 2000 that KEEY "K102" in Minneapolis played a message promoting a domestic violence shelter alongside the song and WKIX in Raleigh, North Carolina excluded the song from its playlist.[9]

Chart performance[edit]

"Goodbye Earl" reached a peak position of number 13 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a spot somewhat short of the Chicks' usual placings at the time. It also made the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 19, and would become the trio's highest charting song among pop listings until "Long Time Gone" in the summer of 2002. Regardless of rankings, the song has become one of the Chicks' most well-known tunes. It is an enthusiastically-received staple of all their concert tours.

Chart (2000) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[10] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 19
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[12] 13

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song was produced by Keeley Gould and directed by Evan Bernard, who also plays the role of Ezekiel Kincaid, Wanda's divorce lawyer. It begins with some photographs of Wanda and Mary Ann in high school, and their parting. The next scene shows Wanda wearing a wedding dress in Earl's car after their marriage. As Wanda is increasingly abused by Earl, she dons dark glasses and long sleeve blouses, as conveyed in the song's lyrics, to conceal her injuries. Finally, she hires an attorney for divorce, but Earl appears, abusing Wanda for the last time. Mary Ann hears of Wanda's admission to the Intensive Care Unit, and the two hatch the plan to kill Earl. They poison his black-eyed peas and Earl dies then Emily, Martie, Natalie, Mary Ann, and Wanda wrap him up in blue tarp. A few days later, the police arrive, seeking Earl but are unable to find him (after a remarkably half-hearted search). After the seasons change, the two women are shown as business partners with a roadside stand, selling "Tennessee ham and strawberry jam". As they dispose of Earl's body, the whole town, including a zombie Earl, celebrates his death by dancing in a style that is at times reminiscent of Michael Jackson's video for "Thriller". The video ends with them all except Zombie Earl jumping in the air.


The video's cast includes:

The Chicks and Dennis Franz met backstage at The Rosie O'Donnell Show. They discussed the possibility of Franz appearing in one of their future videos. Told that he would have to play "a nasty guy," Franz's reply was, "Hey, I've done that before." Six months later, however, they asked him to play one of the police officers in the video. He replied, "No, no, no. I want to be Earl."[14] Franz was cast as Earl and Adrian Pasdar played the other policeman instead.

The music video won both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association Video of the Year Awards in 2000. The video was subsequently placed at #6 on CMT's 2004 ranking of the 100 Greatest Music Videos,[15] and #7 on their 2008 revision of the rankings.[16]

Other versions and parodies[edit]

The song was originally recorded by the country music band Sons of the Desert but not put onto an album, because of a dispute with the band's label. Sons of the Desert had initially planned to record it on their second album for Epic Records, but the Chicks had claimed the song as their own. The resulting dispute over the song led to Sons of the Desert's exiting Epic in 1998.[17]

Punk cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes also performed a cover of the song.

Country music parodist Cledus T. Judd recorded a parody, titled "Goodbye Squirrel", about two hunters and their unsuccessful attempts to kill a squirrel.

Comedian Fortune Feimster performed the song with Maines on The Comedy Jam.

Ray Stevens made a parody sequel to the song called "Hey Girls...This Is Earl...I Didn't Die," where the girls attempt to kill Earl only left him with amnesia. He eventually comes back and has them arrested for attempted murder while also turning himself in for what he had done in the past.

A group called the 'Dixie Dicks' recorded a response record, "My Name Is Earl," about another man named Earl, whose wife, after listening to "Goodbye Earl" and Martina McBride's "Independence Day," has falsely accused Earl of domestic violence, leading Earl to fear for his life. The song was featured on in 2003.[18]


  1. ^ Fly (CD booklet). Dixie Chicks. Monument Records. 1999. 69678.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ "'Goodbye Earl' sheet music". Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  3. ^ Lewis, Randy (April 1, 2000). "'Earl' Creates Heat--and Heated Debate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  4. ^ Tucker, Ken (September 21, 1999). "No Shrinking Violence". Entertainment Weekly. p. 1. Retrieved July 19, 2008. But you gotta love their Thelma and Louise-style taste for revenge, says Ken Tucker
  5. ^ Lewis, Randy (1 April 2000). "'Earl' Creates Heat--and Heated Debate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  6. ^ Kava, Brad (March 14, 2000). "Song's ban unleashes debate on violence in pop culture". San Jose Mercury News. p. 1A. Retrieved June 20, 2019 – via NewsBank.
  7. ^ Lewis, Randy (1 April 2000). "'Earl' Creates Heat--and Heated Debate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  8. ^ Lewis, Randy (1 April 2000). "'Earl' Creates Heat--and Heated Debate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  9. ^ a b Birkhead, Larry (April 3, 2000). "Some radio stations bag Chicks' 'Earl'". USA Today. p. D2. Archived from the original on May 10, 2000. Retrieved June 20, 2019. Also published as "Radio Balks At Dixie Chicks' 'Goodbye Earl'". Sonicnet. April 5, 2000. Archived from the original on May 12, 2001.
  10. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 9826." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. May 1, 2000. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  11. ^ "Dixie Chicks Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  12. ^ "Dixie Chicks Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  13. ^ Hunter, Sandy (February 1, 2001). "Evan Bernard Testifies". 'Boards. p. 2. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  14. ^ Leithauser, Debra (January 9, 2005). "Dennis Franz, Leaving the Beat Behind". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 12, 2017. No, no, no. I want to be Earl.
  15. ^ "100 Greatest Music Videos". CMT. 2004. Retrieved April 28, 2009.
  16. ^ Bierly, Mandi (April 7, 2008). "Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' still the greatest country video". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 28, 2009.
  17. ^ "Sons of the Desert don't mind getting a little 'SOD'dy". 2000. Retrieved July 15, 2007.
  18. ^

External links[edit]