Black Gold is a 1993 single performed by the Minneapolis rock band Soul Asylum. It, along with the band’s more famous hit Runaway Train, helped bring their album, Grave Dancers Union to a multi-platinum level.
The song was written by Soul Asylum’s lead singer Dave Pirner. It was the second single from their album, Grave Dancers Union.
The meaning of the song has been the topic of many debates. Some fans state that it simply is about racism and/or black soldiers fighting in a war (“You’re a black soldier, white fight“). Other disagree and claim it is about the greed for oil (Black Gold is another term for oil). One other theory maintains that it is about the Gulf War and the obvious references to the Persian Gulf in the music video supports this theory. Dave Pirner is shown in the reflection of a pool which mirrors the shape of the Persian Gulf. Many lyrics from the song do match this idea. The lyrics “Two boys on a playground/trying to push each other down” could possibly mean the USA and Iraq fighting over “Black Gold“. It has been theorized that the lines “Keeps the kids off the streets/gives ’em something to do, something to eat” could mean young men and women (“kids“) joining the military. And there is the fact that at about 1:56 various noises are heard: ambulance sirens, screams, cries, and what appears to be a news cast, which could represent the war.
Pirner himself stated that the song was about war at the Dogwood Festival in Fayetteville, NC on April 24, 2010. He also stated that he was against war.
The band originally formed in 1981 under the name Loud Fast Rules, with the original line-up consisting of Dan Murphy, Dave Pirner, Karl Mueller and Pat Morley. The latter was replaced by Grant Young in 1984. The band recorded three albums with Twin/Tone Records and two with A&M Records to little commercial success. However, in 1992, they released the triple-platinum album Grave Dancers Union, featuring their Grammy Award-winning single Runaway Train. The band played the Bill Clinton inauguration early the next year. They also scored a platinum record with the album Let Your Dim Light Shine three years later. In 1998 they recorded Candy from a Stranger. Mueller was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, causing the band to organize a benefit concert on his behalf. Mueller died a year later. In 2006 they released The Silver Lining. Their most recent effort is entitled Delayed Reaction, which was released on July 17, 2012.
Editor’s note: Certain songs, and certain bands, played in the background of my life in a way that I never fully embraced, but yet the songs were still there. I hear them now and they bring back floods of memories, and an affection begins to build, and I grasp hold of the song, play it over and again, and realize what I may have missed back when it was just part of my musical peripheral. This song is one of those certain songs.