Fri. Jun 21st, 2024
country

Country Music and its History Needs to Be Told to Alleviate Racist Rhetorics

Country music has always been a genre that reflects the rich heritage of African culture, with its roots deeply embedded in the history and traditions of enslaved Africans. 

One of the misconceptions that needs to be debunked is the belief that country music is exclusively for white artists. This notion is not only false but also harmful.

Country music, like any other genre, should be open to artists of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

The Caribbean and Mexican Communities have been entrenched in this genre for hundreds of years, so how can it belong to a community that is outraged the most?

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Country music, rooted in the Southern United States, encompasses a wide variety of sub-genres, each with its distinctive sound, musical instruments, and thematic narratives. Below are several key country music genres:

  • Traditional Country: At the heart of country music, this genre features acoustic instruments like guitars, banjos, fiddles, and steel guitars. Songs in this genre often narrate tales of daily life, romantic love, and the experience of loss.
  • Honky-Tonk: Born in the mid-20th century, honky-tonk is notable for its lively rhythms, memorable tunes, and lyrics focused on drinking, love troubles, and the nightlife of bars.
  • Bluegrass: Known for its vigorous energy and complex instrumental performances, bluegrass emphasizes the banjo’s unique sound, alongside rapid tempos. It celebrates bluegrass gatherings and impromptu musical sessions.
  • Country Rock: This genre merges country’s traditional elements with rock’s dynamic energy, featuring amplified electric sounds. Drums, electric guitars, and keyboards are common in country rock tracks.
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  • Country Pop: Merging country’s essence with pop’s wide appeal, country pop is marked by its engaging tunes and universal themes, making it broadly appealing.
  • Outlaw Country: Arising in the late 20th century as a counter to the polished Nashville sound, outlaw country artists preferred a grittier, more authentic musical expression.
  • Bakersfield Sound: Hailing from Bakersfield, California, this genre is recognized for its sharp guitar tunes, straightforward musical arrangements, and narratives that often reflect working-class life.
  • Texas Country: Originating in Texas, this genre stands out for its prominent use of fiddle and steel guitar, with lyrics celebrating Texan heritage and way of life.

These categories represent just a snapshot of the extensive range of country music genres, each fostering its own community of enthusiasts.

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From the classic strands of traditional country to the innovative mixes of modern genres, country music offers a diverse spectrum of sounds and stories, ensuring there’s something for every listener within this rich musical landscape.

Did we forget that Ray Charles wrote many of Country Songs that have been remade, remixed, and tried to be owned? Georgia on My Mind, Take Me Home.

He brought increased attention and respect to country music with the 1962 release of his album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. His soulful renditions of “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and “Born to Lose” helped those songs become standards- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The problem lies not with Beyoncé or other African American country singers, but with the racist and limited individuals who fail to acknowledge the diverse roots of Country music.

Unfortunately, there have been instances where certain individuals, like “has been” John Schneider, former star of the Dukes of Hazzard, whos attempt to revive his career through the use of racist rhetoric. Yes, the same “Bo Duke” that had to be investigated by the Secret Service for calling for the execution of Joe Biden and compared Beyoncé to a dog marking its territory because she went back to her TEXAS roots and crossed genres. See the connection?

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It is disheartening to see that some people still cling to outdated beliefs and refuse to acknowledge the talent and contributions of artists from different backgrounds.

However, it is crucial to remember that these individuals SHOULD not represent the entire country music community.

It is important to recognize the historical contributions of African Americans to country music. From the early pioneers like DeFord Bailey, Lesley Riddle, and Linda Martell to contemporary artists like Darius Rucker, Aaron Neville, and K. Michelle,

African American artists have played a significant role in shaping the genre. Their contributions have enriched the music and added a unique perspective that should be celebrated and embraced.

However, it is sad to see instances where African American artists have faced resistance and discrimination within the industry.

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Some artists have shared their experiences of being refused airplay or facing backlash before Beyonce, simply because of their race. These incidents highlight the need for continued efforts to address racism and discrimination within the genre.

It is imperative that we confront these issues head-on and honor the African American artists whose influence has been pivotal in molding country music into what it is today.

Music possesses the unique ability to unify and heal, transcending societal divisions and connecting individuals across varied backgrounds.

By embracing diversity and recognizing the invaluable contributions of African American artists, we can foster the growth and vitality of country music.

In essence, the challenge facing country music is not the inclusion of African American artists like Beyoncé or other talented figures.

The real issue lies with those who, entrenched in racism and narrow-mindedness, fail to acknowledge and appreciate the genre’s rich, diverse heritage. Celebrating African American artists’ legacies and striving for a more inclusive communities of music is essential.

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Only through such efforts can we dismantle prejudice, promote unity, and ensure that music truly reflects America’s soul.

The U.S. Congress’s formal recognition of Bristol, Tennessee, as the “Birthplace of Country Music” underscores the city’s foundational role in the genre’s history.

This designation is rooted in the historic Bristol recording sessions of 1927, but HOW??

Especially where pioneering artists like DeFord Bailey and Lesley Riddle contributed to some of the first recordings of country music way before 1927.

These sessions marked a pivotal moment, capturing the essence of what would become a defining American musical tradition, and as per usual, genres of music snagged from African Americans who graciously shared or unfortunately had styles copied and not given credit, Rock and Roll greats like Chuck Berrys images stolen by Elvis, and many many more.

At the end of the day, the origins of country music are even more deeply intertwined with African American history when considering the folklore and musical traditions of enslaved people.

The gatherings of slaves, where they shared stories, sang, and played music, were foundational in the development of several American music genres, including country.

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“The Old Plantation,” possibly 1785-1795, attributed to John Rose, depicts a scene in South Carolina. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

George Washington’s Mount VernonVisit

These gatherings were not just expressions of culture and heritage but served as a form of resistance and survival, embedding themes of struggle, resilience, and hope that would resonate in country music’s narrative fabric.

By understanding the historical context and acknowledging the contributions of African American artists and the traditions of enslaved people, we can appreciate the depth and richness of this music as a true reflection of the American experience.

This perspective is essential in moving towards a more inclusive and accepting country music community, breaking down barriers of racism, and ensuring the genre continues to evolve and thrive as a representation of America’s diverse heritage, NOT form barriers and hatred take over.

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Dolly Parton used royalties from her Whitney Houston song to support a Black neighborhood.

“I’m just going to be down here with her people, who are my people as well. I just love the fact that I spent that money on a complex. And I think, ‘this is the house that Whitney built.’”

#Sources: George Washtington Mount Vernon, Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Smithsodian, DeFord Bailey, Lesley Riddle, and Linda Martell to contemporary artists like Darius Rucker, Aaron Neville, and K. Michelle

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