Monday, February 19, 2018

Music Monday ~ Country Prejudice

A few words I wrote at Quora last week, in answer to the question "Why do people hate country music so much?"

I wonder if people do care enough about country music to actually hate it - it's a genre that is just not to everyone’s taste - and that’s fine.

As it happens, I’m a country music fan, but I do not fit any of the labels regularly attached to those who enjoy the genre. I’m British born (so no roots in the southern states), I’m left as left can be politically, in no way conservative, and I’m neither racist nor sexist.

I discovered country music back in the late 1980s and 1990s, not in the USA but in a vacation resort in the Spanish governed Canary Islands, which lie off the west coast of Africa, and it was being sung by a Londoner! Hows that for a mix?

I fell in love with country music. Back home in Yorkshire I began collecting albums, buying country music magazines, and learning what I could about it, from wherever I could.

It has to be said, however, that the current style of country has veered away and is not to my own taste. When I say I love country music, I love the styles of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Keith Whitley, Kris Kristofferson, John Conlee, George Strait, and their likes - Garth Brooks just manages to scrape in to that group!

The fact that I eventually found myself living in the USA, and in a state where country music is part of the wallpaper, was coincidental - I think!

There is some prejudice against country music in the USA, whether it descends to the level of hatred is doubtful; it is routinely ridiculed and derided by music snobs, however. I found country music in a place where prejudice against it didn't exist - and that made all the difference. Stock answer as to the prejudice against country is "it's white, it's racist..blah blah". If Charley Pride, Darius Rucker and other black country singers were open-minded and enlightened enough to breach the perceived divide, then there is, and should be, always hope, but progress is slow. Prejudice and division are what The Powers That Be want of us, it distracts us from giving more attention to their ongoing dastardly deeds.

Here's Gene Watson, another of my favourites, and one I've actually managed to see performing live! This song says it for me - but still doesn't go far enough, for as well as spreading from "sea to shining sea" this music has crossed oceans in several directions. The song ought to be better known. I haven't found anyone other than Gene singing it - why? And why is prejudice so hard to dislodge? Even this song's lyrics were hard to find online. I eventually found them, but only with chord notes added for guitar players - had to clean it up before posting.

This country's Bigger than Texas
Recorded by Gene Watson
Written by Hugh Prestwood
Standing on a corner in Manhattan
I finally flagged a taxi down
And as I climbed into the back seat
I heard a more familiar sound
From the radio came gliding through
The sliding Nashville pedal steel
And as the driver took me riding
His fingers danced upon the wheel.

This country's bigger than Texas
It's bigger than Nashville Tennessee
It reaches border to border
It stretches shinning sea to sea
This country’s got no boundaries

A redneck farmer out of Macon
Met a lady lawyer from LA
They did not have a thing in common
Or at least it seemed that way
And then the jukebox started playing
Just your average country song
And both their bodies started swaying
They danced the two step all night long.

This country's bigger than Texas
It's bigger than Nashville Tennessee
It reaches border to border
It stretches shinning sea to sea
This country’s got no boundaries
This country's got no boundaries


anyjazz said...

You know I am a music fan. The type really doesn't matter. I'll listen to anything. I do think Duke Ellington said it best, "There are only two kinds of music, Good and Bad." I think he was referring of the talent of the musician or composer more than anything. When you think about it, there's good and bad jazz, good and bad country, good and bad pop and yes, good and bad classical music. If you sift it a bit further, it becomes more of a preference. But music you don't prefer is not necessarily bad.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ Thanks for your thoughts on this. I freely admit that there's some bad country music, as well as some decent country that isn't to my own taste.

As you know I've come to appreciate some types of jazz - but not all. Preference is one thing, prejudice is something else.

If I had to attribute a reason for the disdain in which country music is held by some in the USA, I'd say it's snobbery, plain and simple; at times it barely reaches the depths of prejudice, rather just simple pretentiousness, a feeling one has more sophisticated, better-honed, tastes and country is for..well..yobs. Prejudice comes into the mix once politics is added - "Country music is Republican". No it isn't! It is the music of ordinary working class people! Once politics raises its head the whole logic becomes screwed up. (Stop ranting Ann!)

A Casual Reader said...

There's no such thing as a coincidence. That trip to the Canary Islands was one link in a chain of probabilities that led you to (Oklahoma?) - and that chain undoubtedly began forming even earlier through a series of little events and realizations as you lived your work-a-day life in Yorkshire.

Count me in as another 'country-music' appreciator - and one who grew up with a distinct and snobbish attitude towards it. For me, if you weren't 'within orb' of 'The Big Four'(The Beatles, The Kinks, The Stones, and The Who), you weren't worthy of existing, musically anyway.

Funny how everything can change in a split-second when you fall in love. Suddenly, bee-keeping or calculus or stamp collecting or cake baking can become fascinating in ways they never were before. In my case, it was country music and Oklahoma - and it changed me forever, for the better.

Twilight said...

A Casual Reader ~ Yes, the thought had pass through my mind that my becoming a fan of country music via the Canary Island vacations (and there were many of 'em during the 1990s), was somehow linked to later adventures which brought me to Oklahoma. There was heartbreak in between, however, but that heartbreak too was probably part of the pattern. Life is funny peculiar at times!

And there's this too: when I was still a teen (or barely) a fortune teller told my mother that I would marry a foreigner and end my life abroad. I did marry a foreigner, twice - #1 was quite the wrong choice! I refused to marry again - probably would never have done so if immigration hadn't been so complicated, and he hadn't been a US citizen.

Oh - I'm pleased you're a country fan also! Yes, it's funny that love dictates our other preferences - I've come to enjoy, of all things, jazz (or some of it), since my husband is a jazz fan first and foremost. He and his family are also avid Beatles fans, so I've had to up my game in that direction also - was never much impressed originally! I'm quite glad he wasn't into calculus though - that would have been right out of the question for me! :)