[lbo-talk] labor bitchiness

Dennis Claxton ddclaxton at earthlink.net
Fri May 25 09:32:46 PDT 2007

>What really interests me, though, is the general shift in tone and
>theme that's occurred in mainstream country music: Why is it so much
>more sentimental, earnest and gooey (even angry?) than it was a few
>decades ago? This strikes me as a useful inquiry because -- assuming
>you can draw generalizations about cultural trends amongst the white
>working class from trends in country music -- it might help explain
>why so many working class whites have turned to the dark side. How
>does schlocky sentimentality breed reactionary politics (or vice

Here's a good dividing point for when it started. When John Denver was big, he once won country music album of the year, artist of the year, something like that. Charlie Rich was the presenter at the awards show. He opened the envelope and as he was reading Denver's name with a tone of disdain he was at the same time setting fire to the paper with a cigarette lighter.

I'm not sure it's mainly the white working class that listens to the crap coming out of Nashville since then, anymore than punk fans listen to the Police. Mainstream country is probably bigger in suburban Los Angeles now than anywhere. I once knew an attorney who grew up in New Jersey and drove from the San Fernando Valley to downtown Los Angeles every morning while listening to country radio. She said she like it because it was about simple and positive things like staying married and living clean.

As far as the music production itself, it got hollywoodized. Music execs look at photos before they listen to demos. I know someone who played traditional country in San Francisco in the late '90s. He won a songwriting contest sponsored by Jim Beam and one of the prizes was a year-long Nashville songwriting contract. He moved down there and made a bunch of demos with old time players who made Nashville famous. People like Pig Robbins, a piano player who played on a thousand Nashville records in the sixties by everyone from Patsy Cline to Bob Dylan. Now Robbins sits around waiting for the phone to ring.

This guy lives in Austin now and plays with old-timers who used to work with Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Austin is their town now and they have nothing good to say about Nashville.

>you can't get much more reactionary than Merle Haggard's "Fightin'
>Side of Me" or "Okie From Muskogee."

Okie from Muskogee was a joke song. As Haggard has said about the "we don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee" line... "Muskogee is the only place I don't smoke it." Haggard smokes dope all the time.

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