More Jackson County Opinions...

JUNE 5, 2002


Column
By: Ben Monroe
The Jackson Herald
June 5, 2002

Country music is dead
Rock music has been pronounced dead a number of occasions.
Go ahead and add country music to the obit page.
With synthesizers, up tempo dance beats and a cheap pop culture attitude today, country’s mass departure from its rural roots has choked the life out of a genre of music which was once a poignant form of expression.
In fact, record stores could just as well start classifying it as “pop music with fiddles.”
Dying to fit in with America’s obsession with the “culture of cool,” contemporary country has commercialized and compromised its sound to such a point that it’s hard to believe it’s the offspring of music crafted by some true legends.
Remember when Willie Nelson sang of a whiskey river, Johnny Cash crooned about the blues of Fulsom Prison and Charlie Daniels told us the story of a virtuoso fiddle player who plays his way out of eternal damnation.
Country songs used to be about hard times and rural folklore. The stories shared came from people who lived through them.
Even the odes to partying were classic as well. Just pop in most anything from Hank Williams, Jr. and you’ll see.
But a generation later, country artists say anything to promote the cheesier side of life.
Turn on country radio today and Trick Pony gives us the lyrically stimulating “Just what I do when I get no lovin,’” N’sync’s country cousins, Rascal Flats, whine over some girl who dumped them and a surfer dude named Keith Urban—yes, Urban—who I’m sure has baled his fair share of hay in his day, attempts to tell us about rural life with “Where the blacktop ends.”
For a brand of music that once prided itself on being so removed from the cheapness of the mainstream, country is now selling its soul to join the “in” crowd.
Country singers of today would burn their cowboys hats (those that still have them) for a chance to jump ship to VH1 or MTV on their journey down the highway to pop music hell.
But with the emergence of CMT (country music television) as a medium for the all-important “hip,” they won’t have to.
The network has already catered to such pop culture cravings by employing a pair of city slickers to host “Most Wanted Live,” what obviously is their answer to MTV’s “Total Request Live.”
And the artists in their videos dress the pop star part.
Country music singers used to look like outlaws in a western flick. Now they look like something out of a Gap ad.
But not to be totally lost in the mass sellout of country are a dying breed of artists that are successful with substance and their rural roots.
I attended an Alan Jackson concert recently and was treated to an hour and a half of stripped down, wholesome country. Buy his new CD and listen to “Drive” and you’ll be reminded of what it was like to grow up around wide open pastures and dirt roads.
But if country music continues to pave the road to pop music assimilation, Jackson may eventually be labeled as a dinosaur act along with the old country greats.
If these new artists want to mass produce pop music, fine.
Just don’t insult us by calling it country.
Ben Munro is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers.

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Column
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
June 5, 2002

Is this a great country, or what!
Before we move onto a happier, more cheerful subject next week, will you please allow me this one unpleasant aside?
The 45th annual commencement exercise of Jackson County Comprehensive High School was Friday, May 24.
Graduating seniors, ROTC cadets and band members were courteous, polite and well behaved. They followed with precision the program planned and rehearsed by them and their school’s principal, faculty and staff.
The same cannot be said for some of their parents, grandparents, other family members and friends. With their loud yelling and screeching horns, they were an embarrassment to many, including, I suspect, some of their own graduates.
But they didn’t know that. They thought they were being funny. Or cute. Maybe they thought they were at a rock concert. Maybe they didn’t know any better. If they knew better, then they don’t care.
Is this a great country, or what! Where else in the world can we be free to be civil or free to make fools of ourselves?
Thanks, seniors, for being role models for your juvenile parents, grandparents, other family members and friends.
It’s all about courtesy, etiquette, manners, politeness, respect. It’s about discipline.
Am I the only one who finds it a bit strange that some parents have relinquished that responsibility and left it squarely on the shoulders of their kids?
Now, if I don’t get a lot of letters agreeing/disagreeing with me, praising/lambasting me, over these kind/unkind remarks, I am going to be terribly disappointed.
* * *
I asked my daughter, Claire, about her graduation from Jefferson High School. I didn’t even remember when it was.
She said it was in 1966 and that it was a rather formal, serious, somber, solemn occasion. She reassured me that I didn’t make a fool of myself. She also spoke well of the behavior of all the other parents. And no, the graduating seniors didn’t misbehave, either.
Everybody knew everybody else. We were afraid to mess up. I mean, we didn’t want the whole community coming down on us. We held each other accountable.
True, there was a lot of bootlegging and car stealing going on in Jackson County back then. We knew who was doing most of it, and we went to great pains to exclude them from our closely-knit, law-abiding circle of friends, church members, Lions and Rotarians, fellow Democrats and three or four low-profile Republican buddies.
Locally, the war on drugs had not been declared. If anyone was smoking pot, shooting heroin or sniffing crack in Jefferson, we didn’t know about it. And if there were any gays in the community, they had not come out. We had to read those Atlanta fish wrappers to learn about that stuff.
Of the two or three thousand people at Panther Stadium the other night, I may have known 15 or 20. And half of those were members of my own family. Had I seen one of ‘em yelling or setting off screeching horns, I would have disowned him.
“Everybody knew everybody” was a ‘60s statement in a small town. Things are different now.
“Nobody knows anybody” would have been a more accurate statement at graduation 2002 in a county growing as fast as Jackson. I dare say there are families in the county who do not know their next door neighbors who live less than 100 feet away.
We meet each other more on the roads than we do in our homes.
Traffic lights proliferate. Our streets are wider. The bypass is almost ready. Traffic worsens.
Our cities and county are feuding over water and zoning and development and where to put the new courthouse.
“Nobody knows anybody” is deteriorating into “nobody trusts anybody.”
And grown men and women turn what is supposed to be a formal, orderly ceremony into a circus.
This is supposed to be progress—what we are going through?
Not to worry, America. This really is a great country.
I said sometime ago that our greatest generation is yet to come. Well, it may already be here. I saw it May 24 in the courtesy, politeness and behavior of the graduating seniors, ROTC cadets and band members at the JCCHS commencement exercise.
And I see it in the eyes and hear it in the voices of school administrators and teachers who expect great things of their students and are thrilled when they achieve them. As long as teachers teach and students learn, there is hope.
What a great day it would be if they could also teach their parents!
But as long as senior young people keep on being role models for juvenile old people, there is a chance that old people will grow up.
What say we end this with a wager? I’m betting that this year’s graduating seniors won’t yell and set off screeching horns when their kids graduate, say around 2045.
Virgil Adams is former editor and owner of The Jackson Herald.


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