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Country Flashback: ‘Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)’ is Joe Diffie’s Last Wish

Funeral arrangements — nobody wants to make them. While many people want to avoid their impending mortality, the narrator in country music singer Joe Diffie‘s “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” has no reservations. After all, he just wants to do what he’s always done.

Joe Diffie has seen his share of life. The country music singer worked all kinds of jobs before turning to Music City: bouncing from a job working at an oil field, driving a cement truck, and working in a foundry. While difficult, it must have been a fertile time for someone with Diffie’s observational powers. Diffie has 35 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including  “Home”, “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)”, “Third Rock from the Sun”, “Pickup Man” (his longest-lasting No. 1, at four weeks), “In My Own Backyard,” “Texas Size Heartache,” “A Night to Remember,” and “So Help Me Girl.” These songs show Diffie’s range — he loves a good joke but he can also get serious at the drop of a dime.

Honky Tonk Attitude

Diffie has put out seven studio albums, a Christmas album, and a greatest hits album. 1993’s Honky Tonk Attitude was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning it has sold over over a million copies — thanks in no small part to Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die). The first three singles from the album all reached the Top Ten on the country singles charts: the title track (which Diffie co-wrote) and  “John Deere Green” both peaked at No. 5. Thanks to its charm and outrageous music video, “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” peaked at No. 3. “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox” was released with “I Can Walk the Line (If It Ain’t Too Straight)” as the b-side.

The song was penned by Kerry Kurt Phillips, Howard Perdew and Rick Blaylock. It was the second single from his third CD Honky Tonk Attitude. Thanks to its charm and outrageous music video, it peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now known as the Hot Country Songs) chart. It tells the story of a narrator who claims he’s not afraid of death, but would rather not be buried. Instead, he’d like to remain in death as he had lived: partying a the local honky-tonk.

Following Honky Tonk Attitude’s success, Diffie was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. He won that year’s Country Music Association award for Vocal Event of the Year, for his guest vocals on George Jones’s “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair.”

In the opening of “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox”‘s uproarious music video, two men smuggle a fully dressed male corpse out o fa funeral home. They play Weekend at Bernie’s and bring it to the local dive. At the end of the night, the now-abandoned corpse (decked out in a party hat) remains propped up next to the jukebox. Diffie, who’s singing in the house band, approaches the corpse at the end of the night and, thinking it’s a living person, claps it on the shoulder, urges it to go home, and walks away as the corpse slumps to the floor.

Legacy

In addition to showcasing Diffie’s funnybone, the song has another sort of legacy. In 1999, the song was part of a lawsuit when another songwriter named Everett Ellis attempted to sue the writers of “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox”, as he thought that the song infringed on a copyright to his own composition, “Lay Me Out by the Jukebox When I Die”. The court decided that, although the songs have similar choruses, Ellis could not prove his claim. It was decided in favor of the defendants.

 

“Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” Lyrics:

Well, I ain’t afraid of dyin’, it’s the thought of being dead
I want to go on being me once my eulogy’s been read
Don’t spread my ashes out to sea, don’t lay me down to rest
You can put my mind at ease if you fill my last request

(Chorus)
Prop me up beside the juke box if I die
Lord, I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Just let my headstone be a neon sign
Just let it burn in memory of all of my good times
Fix me up with a mannequin, just remember, I like blondes
I’ll be the life of the party, even when I’m dead and gone

(Chorus)
Prop me up beside the juke box if I die
Lord, I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Just make your next selection, and while you’re still in line
You can pay your last respects one quarter at a time

(Chorus)
Prop me up beside the juke box if I die
Lord, I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

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Country Flashback: ‘Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)’ is Joe Diffie’s Last Wish