“Dirty Harry” by Gorillaz (ft. Bootie Brown)

It is obvious, as “Dirty Harry” progresses that, as explained by Damon Albarn, it is akin to an anti-war song. However, the chorus which starts off the track is far from easy to decipher. Also, the first half of the song’s singular verse, as recited by Bootie Brown, sounds a lot like a gun-toting street rap, though one that is more centered on defense than offense.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Gorillaz's Dirty Harry at Lyrics.org.

And to note said vocalist is a founding member of The Pharcyde, a hip-hop act that consists of what can be deemed conscious or alternative rappers. Eventually his verse does take on an anti-war slant, even if somewhat indirectly. And he does so by most notably by depicting himself as a soldier who basically feels as if he is in a no-win situation.

Initially, Bootie may come off as sort of a ruthless killer, though, to reiterate, one who only resorts to the gat if need be. However, once he takes on more of a full-fledged soldier persona, he is depicted as someone who is engaged in warfare for questionable reasons outside of his control, i.e. the name of securing petroleum for instance. And after the fact, he’s ‘filled with guilt from the things he’s seen’.

An Anti-War Song

Overall, taken as an anti-war song, this is one of those pieces that gets its point across by basically depicting warfare as hell. Being engaged in the act in and of itself is troubling enough. And then it’s like afterwards, as implied, a soldier can never reclaim the same level of happiness he enjoyed prior (which may also be the concept 2D is getting at in the confusing chorus).

Who is Dirty Harry?

Meanwhile “Dirty Harry”, as you may already know, is the name of a fictitious character, made famous by actor Clint Eastwood, who can most simply be described as a murderous vigilante. 

What has been deduced is that who Gorillaz are actually likening said character to is George W. Bush, who was President of the United States when this song came out. That was in 2005, when both the War in Afghanistan and Iraq War were, under his leadership, in full swing.

And as we have pointed out before, even though the formal rationale for those invasions was an effort to combat terrorism, many people, including obviously the artists at hand, thought the true motive was something more financially motivated, such as the exploitation of the Middle East’s oil reserves. Such was actually a common sentiment when this song was dropped, and some other musicians, in their own respective ways, have made these same type of statements.

Lyrics to Gorillaz's "Dirty Harry"

When was “Dirty Harry” released?

“Dirty Harry” is a track Gorillaz dropped on 21 November 2005. It served as the third single from their album “Demon Days”, which stands as the most-successful in their discography. 

The song itself performed pretty well. It entered the charts of about a dozen countries and in the process peaked at number 6 on the UK Singles Chart. This is in addition to eventually being certified gold in Gorillaz’ homeland of the United Kingdom. 

To note, as of this writing, this marks the band’s most-recent single to break the top 10 in the UK (or apparently any country for that matter).

Video of “Dirty Harry”

To note, Gorillaz is a virtual band whose make-believe members are depicted as computer-generated cartoon characters. However, this video is part animation and part real-life photography with the main vocalist, Bootie Brown, actually being featured therein. 

The clip, as directed by Jamie Hewlett, was Gorillaz’ first “to be shot on location” and was filmed in a location in Namibia known as the Swakopmund Desert.

More Facts

“Dirty Harry” was Bootie Brown’s first collaboration alongside Gorillaz but not the last. He also participated on their 2022 track “New Gold” alongside Tame Impala.

It has been pointed out that the cover art to this single was inspired by the movie poster to Full Metal Jacket, which is a classic war film that was released in 1987. The film was directed by the late Stanley Kubrick.

Serving as additional vocalists on this track is the San Fernandez Youth Chorus.

The entire Gorillaz outfit is credited with producing “Dirty Harry”. They produced it in conjunction with:

  • James Dring
  • Jason Cox
  • Danger Mouse 

The official songwriting credits for “Dirty Harry” are as follows:

  • Danger Mouse
  • Bootie Brown
  • Damon Albarn

“Dirty Harry” received a Gold certification in the United Kingdom. It has currently sold over 400,000 units to date in Britain.

Dirty Harry

Notable Usage

“Dirty Harry”, both the original and remix version, have appeared in the likes of the following media:

  • 2006 BBC Radio 1 “Infectious Radio” advertisement.
  • Australian reality TV show “The Block”.
  • BBC’s TV series “DIY SOS”.

“Dirty Harry” was featured on American TV drama “Entourage”. You can find it on the 6th episode of the 3rd season, titled “Three’s Company”.

A remix version of the track appears on the 2010 American action-drama movie “The Karate Kid”.


United Kingdom#6

1 Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s an obvious reference to Prince Harry and his cynical involvement in the wars of the empire. It’s just that no-one wants to go there.

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