The great — and now late — Joe Diffie had an agile voice, an expressive face and an Oklahoma-size heart that rolled out perfect soundtracks for your every mood. Never mind the industrial strength mullet and easygoing manner, this guy was cool, as Exhibits A through J here will demonstrate.
“If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)” (1991)
In this epic, Diffie and his band have been hired to promote a used car lot on a day business is dismal and the salesman crouch on the steps waiting for the next mark, as ready to slide into action as the crocodiles they resemble. As they shred a customer while ogling his acquisitive girlfriend, Diffie & Company sing about the perils of poverty.
“Ships That Don’t Come In” (1992)
To a bleak, nightmarish cityscape, Diffie recounts a conversation between two down-and-outers who, like the rest of humanity, face the near certainty of disappointment. But one consoles the other by observing it could be worse: “God made life a gamble/and we’re still in the game.”
“Startin’ Over Blues” (1992)
Permanent relationships aren’t built around a guy who keeps his guitars in the refrigerator and heats his beans in the can on a hotplate. Thus, we’re made privy to the musings of a bloke who’s back at Square 1 and vexed by the inconveniences such a move impose. There’s a nice instrumental tribute in the video’s steel guitar intro to Hank Williams’ “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.”
“Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” (1993)
This is an unattributed riff on the 1989 movie, Weekend at Bernie’s, in which a dead host is toted around as if alive to give legitimacy to his opportunistic guests. There’s also a nod here to Gram Parsons’ final exit. The storyline is that two friends of a dead guy are determined to honor his last wish — which is embodied in the title of the song. Diffie is at his bounciest best in this lyrical last will and testament.
“Beverly Hillbillies Medley” (1993)
This is a movie promotion and not really a Joe Diffie video, but Diffie has the lead segment in which he does a rousing cover version of George Jones’ “White Lightning.” And who wouldn’t want to hear that? Rated: C (for country).
“Third Rock From the Sun” (1994)
This song and video predated the TV comedy series of the same name by two years. With suitably grotesque characters acting it out, Diffie sings of how one little incident can set off a string of disasters. “Cause and effect, chain of events/all of this chaos makes perfect sense/When you’re spinning round, things come undone/Welcome to Earth, third rock from the Sun.”
“Bigger Than the Beatles” (1995)
It’s not the size of the room you’re playing but the size of the dream you’re dreaming, as any entertainer will tell you. This is Diffie’s sweetest, most affectionate video, probably because it chronicles the trajectory of every artist on the way up. Here we have a singer giving his all to his gig at a hotel bar and a curvy, starstruck waitress who loves him. “They got a love bigger than the Beatles/Wild and free like a Rolling Stone/They gotta love takes ’em higher than the Eagles.”
“(She’s Got a Butt) Bigger Than the Beatles” (1996)
Good-natured Joe appears only long enough in this Cledus T. Judd clip to declare he has nothing to do with the insanity that follows. In it Cledus T. frets about the gargantuan appetite of his corpulent cutie. After Judd has utterly violated the sweet spirit of Diffie’s “Beatles” video, the svelte Shania Twain appears at the end to tell Cledus to quit calling her.
“This Is Your Brain” (1997)
There’s enough surrealistic imagery here to frighten Salvador Dalí and make Fellini sue for copyright infringement. Gravity’s suspended and strange creatures roam the land, all to illustrate the theme, “This is your brain on love.”
“Poor Me” (1998)
You may doubt the sincerity of Diffie’s professed sympathy for this dolt who’s been dropped by his girlfriend and left to wander aimlessly in an emotional desert, but you won’t question the therapeutic advice offered: “Poor me, poor me, pour me another.”