As well as being a terrific singer and writer he is well known as a vehement opponent of Capital punishment and in his long and illustrious career he has written at least three songs concerning this.
First up is Billy Austin, one of my favourite Steve Earle songs. I've gone for the live version from Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator as opposed to the studio version from the Hard Way
Second is Ellis Unit One his contribution to Dead Man Walking the fine Tom Robbin's film about Sister Helen Prejean featuring Susan Saradon and Sean Penn
Finally is Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song) from the 2000 album Transcendental Blues.
I know that Steve has witnessed an execution at the request of the man going to the chair but I'm not sure whether it was Jonathon.
I share Steve's views re capital punishment for two reasons.
One I would argue that it is a mark of a civilised society to rise above the eye for an eye mentality. No civilised society should condone taking a life.
Two and perhaps more importantly what if they get it wrong. There have been many examples of miscarriages of justice with the wrong person convicted. If you have been sentenced to life you can then be released. That option is not there if you have been sent to the chair.
Don't get me started on Texas and their history of executing people with Learning Disabilities or Mental Health problems or as Steve sings "mostly black or brown or poor"
Steve Earle & the Dukes - Billy Austin
Steve Earle - Ellis Unit One
Steve Earle - Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)