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Episode #72: Country Music and 9/11

Obviously 9/11 was one of the most significant events in American history, and easily one of the most significant of my lifetime.

Beville Dunkerly says that in the wake of 9/11, country musicians wrote songs expressing their feelings to the public. He argues that they started trying more to represent the “spirit and patriotism” of the American people through their song writing.

In reference to country music’s change, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson uses the saying “country music is three chords and the truth”.

Songs discussed:

“Where were you when the world stopped turning” by Alan Jackson

“Only in America” Brooks & Dunn

“Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” Toby Keith

“Freedom” by Paul McCartney

-I included this in spite of it not being country because I wanted to highlight how country music had taken a monopoly on the subject of kicking ass and taking names post 9/11 by telling y’all about Paul McCartney’s response. He actually wrote the song after having fucking WATCHED THE ATTACKS from the tarmac at JFK.

Interestingly, his song never caught on. It was a ballad as well, but it speaks quite generally about fighting for the right to live in freedom, that kind of thing. Like i said, a ballad. No anger, no real direct mention of 9/11, but obviously the same subject matter as “Where Were You”. It never gained in popularity, though, and McCartney actually told the Telegraph that it was in the spirit of “We Shall Overcome” and fight for your civil rights, not “Go out and hit people”- but that apparently wasn’t what the people wanted.

In the years that followed, this immediate switch has continued- we don’t have hits like “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Ole Red” so much anymore. It’s all “Chicken Fried” and songs that wanna tell us how American their dog and their beer is. Like I hate it, too- because I really enjoy a lot of country music but the biggest, most mainstream stuff is shit anymore. It’s poppy and most of the boys singing ain’t ever had dirt on their boots or a real problem to speak of- Merle would not approve. There are some who bring high-quality singing and songwriting into the game; Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Devin Hale to name a few… but they’re not TRYING to sell ya know? They just do what they do and it works.

But, for those of you who are maybe like, Alanna this might be in your head- oh no, it is not. I found an actual scholarly essay on this very subject. Using a small scale, though pretty thorough research methodology, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and Sarah Connell confirm “to an extent” that country music post 2001 uses more personal language when referencing religion, war, and patriotism- and that it these topics have become more prevalent than before.


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