Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Country Music = America's Barometer

And, columnist Connie Schultz feels like the pressure gradient is changing ("Mood in country music has shifted on the war")

"Country music has always reflected the country's mood, but it also challenges that mood," says David Whisnant, a professor emeritus of English at the University of North Carolina who has studied the politics of country music.

Clearly, some country music singers ate a big bowl of testosteroni right after 9/11. Just as clearly, the menu has changed.

Consider Toby Keith, who declared himself the quintessential Angry American as he sang about the Statue of Liberty shakin' her fist, Mother Liberty ringin' her bell and U.S. bomber pilots lighting up the Afghanistan sky like the Fourth of July, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."

That was when the war was just beginning. Now he's distancing himself from a war with no end in sight. In June, he told the Associated Press that, contrary to the impression he may have given everybody, he was actually a "lifelong Democrat."

"I supported the ousting of the Taliban [in Afghanistan] 100 percent," he told AP. "My 9/11 song was all about that. But the far left won't allow that to be. They have to plug me into every pro-war thing they can find. . . . I never said I support the Iraq war, but I never said I didn't, either. That war has been over since 48 hours after it started. Our military disarmed them in two days. The dictator has been ousted. They [Iraq] need to step up with their oil money and fund it on their own. I don't say we shouldn't be in there. I say we should be there and step back and let them have their own fight . . ."

Singer Darryl Worley started out gung-ho about the war, too. Annoyed with those who opposed it, Worley also tried to tie the 9/11 attacks to Iraq with his song, "Have you Forgotten?"

Four years later, he was singing a different tune, this one titled "I Just Came Back [From a War]." He wrote it after learning about a U.S. Marine who was struggling to readjust after his return from fierce battle in Fallujah.

Worley looked mighty battle weary himself, his long, scraggly hair framing the hard face of a man who'd had his fill of someone else's big idea. The Marine in his song had returned to "a land where our brothers are dying for others who don't even care anymore."

Tim McGraw .. made news around the country by singing "If You're Reading This" at the Academy of Country Music Awards this year.

The soldier in the song wants his family to know that the letter in their hands means he's "already home." With God, that is.

After McGraw finished singing, the lights rose over a group of people standing silently behind him. Overhead, a sign read, "Families of Fallen Heroes."

McGraw just stood there as the tears flowed all around him.

But one thing was missing.

I looked and I looked at his plain, dark shirt, but it just wasn't there.

The flag pin on the patriot's shirt was nowhere in sight.

What do you think? Have the opinions of your listeners on the war changed enough that it's safe to talk about it in anything but an "I support the troops" way? I don't think so. America's continued polarity as viewed through the lens of country radio listeners in the fall of 2007 still scares me a lot more than the threat of international terrorism does.

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