There’s no doubt about it, once you hear Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green,” every other song you hear will pale in comparison.
It’s got all the makings of a quintessential country hit: rebellious teenagers from a small town, themes of family farming, and feel-good nostalgia you can’t precisely pin on a lyric, but you know it’s there.
Even those who swear they’re not country music fans can’t resist the urge to crack a smile when the honky-tonk track starts up.
However, the song isn’t just relegated to twang and oversized cowboy hats. It tells the captivating story of teenagers Billy Bob and Charlene, who met in the 1960s “down in Dixie.” Bob goes to the town’s water tower and “painted a ten-foot heart in John Deere green”— a classic romantic gesture no small-town girl can resist. His love didn’t stop there. Bob wrote ‘Billy Bob Loves Charlene’ in letters three-foot high.
“And the whole town said that he should’ve used red
But it looked good to Charlene
In John Deere green”
The song concludes by telling the listener that Billy Bob and Charlene settled down with a family and “from their front yard, on a clear day, you could still see his words of love” even though the small town tried to cover it up.
Joe Diffie: More than the Mullet
Besides the sweet, familiar story, the song is technically brilliant. The catchy hook and Diffie’s “Honky Tonk Attitude” is sheer perfection with every listen. Fans and country music big whigs everywhere would notice Diffie’s unmistakable sound as the song peaked at No. 5 on the country charts.
Despite the hair, Diffie was the country music, middle American hero we all needed but didn’t deserve. His music makes you believe he’s someone you could share a beer and deep conversation with at your local watering hole.
His death at the early age of 61 from covid-19 complications has undoubtedly given Diffie fans, young and old, a reason to flip through his catalog of work. Take a listen. You won’t regret it.