The Deployment Diary

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Politics and Country Music

I'm from the heart of the south. Mother jokes I'm double southern being born in Georgia and raised in Alabama. After years of not living in the south, my accent isn't as bad as it once was. However, when I call home a lot or when someone comments on it, the accent seems to come back and then some ;).

Now, if there is a majority of something in the country music demographic, it is freedom loving, flag waving, patriotic proud folks. They love this country and they make no apologies for doing so. When you are trying to sell records (or anything for that matter), you want to appeal to your audience. Singing anti-war songs is not a way to get country music folks listening and buying.

Country Music Radio Full of Pro-War Songs discusses this topic.

First off, I wouldn't say any of the songs were pro-war, but pro-America in my opinion. Keith's Angry American song talked of defending this country when we're attacked - not kicking France's arrogant - country, just because we could. But, lets make those southerners out to be gun-toting, looking for a fight and simple minded.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Country music artists are hardly united in their support of the war in Iraq - but you'd never know it from listening to the radio.

While Toby Keith, Darryl Worley and Charlie Daniels have scored hits with patriotic, war-themed songs, others such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Nanci Griffith released anti-war, or at least questioning, songs that went nowhere.

"Country radio does enough research that they understand listeners are supportive of the military in Iraq and just don't want to get involved with those songs," said John Hart, president of Nashville-based Bullseye Marketing Research.

"I work with 32 stations, and I have not seen one test any of these anti-war songs."
Now, lets be honest here, Nelson is and has been well - a has been for a while. His last hit involved Toby Keith and I doubt without Keith it would have been much of a hit. Country music has changed since Nelson and Haggard's day and it's not all twang and tear in my beer tunes anymore. I'm not a huge country music fan, so I've never heard of Griffith.

Stations are out to make money by selling advertising. If your listeners aren't listening, you aren't staying on the air - just ask Air America. If it's one thing those in the radio industry understand, it is the people who are listening to them and what they want to hear. Anti-war, anti-America rhetoric would go over about as well as taking Fran Dresher deer hunting. One laugh from her and you might as well put your tree stand back in your truck and go home.

But the patriotic tunes that were everywhere at the beginning of the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have slowed. John Michael Montgomery's touching "Letters from Home" is the only current chart hit with a war theme, and it is neither an angry call to arms nor a love letter to America.

Hart believes the flag-waving songs reached a saturation point. He also says the continuing hostilities in Iraq and recent prison abuse scandal may have tempered the enthusiasm expressed early in the conflict.
Boortz is right, the press is going to throw that prison scandal in every article they can. Regardless, if I know southerners, most weren't too happy with what the soldiers responsible for the scandal did. They understand the difference between torture and a few idiots with cameras who must have mental issues to find pleasure in treating fellow humans that way.

And as far as patriotic songs lessening compared to those at the beginning of the war, I'd disagree even with my limited listening to country music. We had Keith's Angry American and Have You Forgotten at the beginning of this war on terrorism. Not too long ago Keith released American Soldier which was a hit. We had Already There and the version by the same group with the military spouses talking on it. Now, there's Letters From Home (which I've still not heard). It seems to me we've had a steady flow of songs and not a huge saturation and now people backing away from it.

In addition to donating tickets to soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, CMA will also hold a reunion of entertainers who performed for troops in Iraq last December. Guests at the Friday event include Worley, whose "Have You Forgotten" remains a conservative rallying cry, as well as liberal comedian and author Al Franken and "JAG" actress Karri Turner.

Franken said the backlash against the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush on a London stage last year had "a chilling effect on what people felt they could or couldn't say" in country music.

"And that's too bad," Franken said. "I think people should be free to express their politics."
Why Franken is all of a sudden an expert on the country music industry is beyond me. Oh that's right, he knows everything.

The truth is, people didn't care for what Maines said about Bush. However, the fact she was seeking the cheers from foreigners against our own President in a foreign country jerked fans' chains. I know it did mine.

I was a huge Chicks fan and loved their music. I can't even bring myself to sit through one of their songs now. I get disgusted and it robs me of any enjoyment I once felt while listening to their music. Instead of listening to their music and emotionally connecting to it - I'm thinking about how she could ever want to encourage foreigners to rally against our own President. Even as much as I disliked Clinton, I wouldn't have said anything negative about him in front of a bunch of foreigners. It's like family: I can say my family is crazy, but unless you're family - don't call them crazy or you'll have an enemy for life. Country music fans love their entertainers and once that love is gone, they are not for forgiving and forgetting. We may be simple no-frill people, but we have long memories and we're more likely to give - than ever give in. Her half-baked apology, the t-shirts against Toby Keith, the magazine cover...I would be extremely surprised if the Chicks ever reach the status they enjoyed prior to their statements - much less ever have another hit song.

Franken and his "chilling effect" needs to understand that country music fans don't mind if you disagree with them about America and how great this country is, they just don't want to hear about it. They want to listen to the music and enjoy it. Knowing an artist hates the president and is vocally against a war while we're still trying to win it - well, they won't be able to forget it. Especially when they are deciding what to listen to and what they'll spend their hard earned dollars on.

Franken understands that artists are welcome and free to express their politics. However, what he fails to appreciate is their fans are free to decide they don't like what someone has to say and won't be buying what they're selling. Franken, like most of these far left folks go, don't believe there should be consequences for their words. And if there are consequences, if people are held accountable for what they say (and in the Chick's example, where they say it) well, that's "chilling." They should be able to say whatever, whenever the mood strikes them. However, the peons of the world should not have a right to disagree and stop filling their wallets.

Worley, too, cited the Dixie Chicks' incident.

"They made a pretty strong statement about the president, and we haven't heard much of them on country radio either. There is a silent majority in this country, and it is a whole lot stronger than people might think."

Worley understands the folks who are buying his music. The very people that will keep him in a mansion. Conservatives by nature are not joiners. They don't go to rallies, they don't march on Washington. They have jobs to go to and families to support. They vote in elections though and as the Chicks found out, they vote with their pocketbooks too.

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