Monday, October 29, 2007

Country Music: It’s Not Just For Republicans Anymore

Well, knock me over with a feather. We tried to tell The Tennessean this--I mean, that was the whole point of the Music Row Democrats, right? But regardless, our daily fishwrap has uncovered the shocking news that country artists support Democratic candidates as well as Republican ones.

They even compiled a list of the major Nashville entertainers who make political contributions. There are few surprises here (save that somebody, somewhere, considers Bonnie Raitt a Nashville entertainer). Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are among the bigger names donating to the Democratic Party. Gretchen Wilson, John Rich, Sara Evans, Ronnie Dunn, and Amy Grant donate to Republicans. No shockers there.

I had always known Amy Grant was a Republican, but still had a lot of respect for her nontheless. In all of my dealings with her she always struck me as a thoughtful, genuine person, who did a lot of good works behind the scenes, with little or no fanfare. But a couple years ago I found out she gave $2,000 to re-elect George W. Bush, even after the Iraq War lies and everything else. My opinion of her slipped dramatically. I understand people who supported Bush-Cheney in 2000, no one thought this administration could be this bad back then. But we certainly knew enough of their lies, misdeeds and questionable activities by the 2004 election. So it’s really hard for me to respect any otherwise intelligent person who supported Bush-Cheney’04. It’s a huge character flaw in my book.

But that’s Christian music for you. Most folks I know in Christian music are Republican. One of the many reasons I stopped working in that business--aside from the revolting marriage of religion and consumerism that nobody involved in it seems to have a problem with--was how the industry had increasingly come to represent the entertainment wing of the Republican Party. I daresay it was hard to distinguish the 2004 Gospel Music Week from the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Country music has always been more politically diverse than that, but the coordinated attack on the Dixie Chicks really did intimidate a lot of people into silence about their non-Bush loving viewpoints. Which, of course, was the entire point. We missed the big picture in that whole, sleazy affair, which is that a big-monied corporate-controlled industry shut down an artist for voicing a politically unpopular opinion. In so doing they sent a warning to everyone else that they'd better shut up too--or else. Even at a time when we hold up those who spoke out against the McCarthy-era blacklists as heroes, we let a new version of the Hollywood blacklist take over Nashville’s music industry. For shame.

I wonder, have any lessons been learned? Will artists and industry leaders alike buck up their courage and stand behind the next artist to get “Dixie Chicked,” or will they leave that artist out in the cold, too?

Maybe something good came out of that affair--besides the best-ever “You are so Nashville if ...” contest winner, that is.

(By the way, the Tennessean got its information from, however, I’ve found Newsmeat sometimes offers more thorough information.)