In 1776 our founding fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence, threw off their powdered wigs donning Stetson hats, lit a bottle rocket, popped a Bud Light and a nation was born. I’m pretty sure that’s how it happened. What can’t be refuted is the inextricable bond between patriotism and country music. Since it’s inception country music has upheld the legacy of men and women who brought our nation out of the ground, and according to some, is running it back into it.
Early settlers travelled to the new world singing vicissitudes of life in an upstart nation. Over time, blights on our historical family tree added to the emotional validity of Americana, but so did industrial, economical, cultural, and technological advances. As a nation barely out of infancy, yet experiencing so much, it makes sense that our unique music would be such an asset to American identity. That and Buffalo chicken. Never forget Buffalo chicken.
Country music definitely runs the gamut from Johnny Horton taking a trip down the mighty Mississip, to Toby Keith putting a boot in a terrorist’s ass (because that’s apparently the American way), to Hank Jr. …well, being Hank Jr.
Patriotism works wonders for unity. Post 9/11 this was evident all around us. But does our six string pride border on jingoistic? Some would say yes, and ‘so what?’. But not many country songs have been penned about gay rights or women’s health care. While innumerable songs have been written regarding conservative middle American values. When living in progressive coastal cities it’s easy to forget that most of the country is still middle America. But surely liberals enjoy shakin’ it for the critters and the crickets and squirrels as well! Why are opposing views, though equally patriotic, not represented in our genre?
In this way country music exhibits cognitive dissonance, concurrently holding opposing beliefs. Three chords and the truth. Real life. Heartbreak. Love. Money. Good times and bad. All the trials and tribulations of Americana. Those very principles country music was founded on. And it’s brutally honest in all aspects except one, monodimensional patriotism. Why?
I have to think it goes back to my theory that most of the country is still “middle America”. “Traditional” values are intrinsic to that part of the country and, even though today’s youth is beginning to accept more modern ideals, we are slow to let go of grandpa’s. Let’s not forget money. If most of the country falls into a certain demographic, and they are spending, then guess who pop culture needs to appeal to? Conversely, the public is at the mercy of what record labels and radio stations choose to promote. So why don’t they use that influence to empower diversity?
With the new trends and influences in country music, much like its nation of origin, it’s experiencing some formative changes. Will one of those be an opening of the mind in content as much as it has been in musical style? I can’t answer that. But I can suggest that we take great pride in the strides our nation has leapt and the hardships we’ve managed to overcome from all perspectives. From sea to shining sea. The wonderful thing about music is it shares the same fundamentals as the United States. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, or social class you are. Music loves everybody. Yes, even bass players.
So while you’re watching the rockets red glare and trying to sneak another hot dog (we see you), this July 4th let’s celebrate every aspect of this American life. And maybe we can keep more boots for scootin’, and out of people’s asses.
Happy Independence Day!