Jerry Williams, the 68-year-old country-soul singer known as Swamp Dogg, writes subversive, eccentric lyrics that would stand out in any genre. Take the song “I’ve Never Been to Africa (and It’s Your Fault),” in which he sings, “You’re always screamin’ we should take our ship back home, but we’d be there right now if you’d left our poor papas alone.” But he wasn’t always so provocative. After recording, producing, and writing more conventional R&B songs for others under his given name in the ’50s and ’60s, in 1970 he decided he wanted to sing about “women, politics, screwing, television, syphilis, and anything else I feel is pertinent.” That year he adopted his pseudonym and released the album Total Destruction to Your Mind, which included the haunting “The World Beyond,” in which he dreams of life as a child in a post-apocalyptic world. Since then, he’s penned dozens of heavy-hitters, including “In Time of War, Who Wins” and “God Ain’t Blessing America,” and covered Joe South’s stinging “Redneck.” Head to the National Mall to experience the songs of a true revolutionary on Independence Day weekend.
Swamp Dogg performs at 6 p.m. on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Motor City Stage. Free.