29 February 2008

Country Music & Progressive Politics

You can find a typically smart and provocative essay by Rebecca Solnit - this time on intersections (yes that is the correct word) between country music and progressive politics - here. Among the things that drives me a bit nuts are common complaints that country music is somehow right-wing. To the list of Solnit's examples I would add contemporary musicians like Buddy Miller whose version of "With God on Our Side" appears on his most recent record Universal United House of Prayer and who on a terrific earlier record Poison Love performed his wife Julie's "100 Million Little Bombs" a song about the scourge of land mines. And, of course, there are lyrics like this too:
Man in Black
Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black

P.S.: The wonderful photography on Buddy's CD is by Michael Wilson, who I posted on some time ago.

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