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Country Music - an American Original

In: Social Issues

Submitted By johnjutzy
Words 1918
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Country music has its roots in the very foundation of the United States. In fact the roots go far further back. The modern country music as it is today was in the southern Appalachian Mountains as a form of storytelling. The groups would travel from town to town singing their rhymes. To this day, modern country singers tell tales of hardworking Americans. They travel from city to city singing their tales. Whereas the groups have changed, the traditions have stayed somewhat untouched. Today’s country music is more popular than ever and as long as the artists continue to push the artistic boundaries should continue to grow in popularity.

In medieval Europe a bard provided music and entertainment going from town to town singing and telling stories and informing people of news from other towns. The rhyme schemes and lyrical content of medieval bards and country music are similar (Country Music and the Myth of the American West, n.d.). Bard lyrics and country music lyrics reflect culture and the society of the time. In the 18th century Europeans began to emigrate to the colonies or America. Many immigrants from Ireland and Scotland settled in the Appalachian region. Immigrants brought music and instruments like the fiddle to the area. The fiddle became the central instrument of country music from Appalachia adopting from the cultural use of the fiddle from the British. Early country music roots in the cultural traditions of the traveling show. In the middle 18th century American minstrel or medicinal shows traveled from town to town presenting musicians and other entertainment (Country Music and the Myth of the American West, n.d.). Country music during this time reflected the culturally themes Christianity, hard work, death, love, and everyday living. Country music roots originate in medieval Europe bard songs about daily life and struggle and reflected a combination of different cultural styles and instruments to form traditional American country music.

Country music began to form a cohesive identity around the 1910 heard in the early recordings of southern Appalachian fiddlers. Country music originates in the combination of Celtic, gospel, traditional folk, and old-time music (Scaruffi, 2007). In the 1920s country music previously referred to as hillbilly music because of the rural, southern, and white influences began spread to larger areas because of a Nashville radio program WSM Barn Dance. Throughout the development of country music the roots of the genre remained influenced by hardworking, Christian (Protestant), rural, and romanticism, hard work, and constant struggle remain the staple principles for songwriters. The struggles of each region of the United States provide the backdrop for the lyrics of country musicians from that region. Country music from Southern regions tends to include vocalist-instrumental heavy songs about domestic struggles (Scaruffi, 2007). Country music from the Mid-West and Western region tends to include domestic themes with a romanticized outlook. Country music in every region tends to reflect the struggles and hopes of people from that region.

Tennessee has been recognized as the place of origination for country music. Congress even placed a decree identifying Bristol, Tennessee “Birthplace of Country Music” according to senator Fred Thompson (2000, p,1) author of “Birthplace of Country Music- The Bristol Story”. As the birthplace of country music Tennessee has excessive amount of venues for people from all walks of life to enjoy the lively sounds of one of America’s favorite genre of music. Venues such as Bluegrass Inn, Legends Corner, and Bluebird Café, which is recognized for helping the start of musicians Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks careers according to Dana Joseph (2012, p, 1) a writer from CNN Travel is a extremely popular venue in Tennessee. However, Tennessee is not the only place established to bring fans an exceptional country music concert.

Billy Bob’s Texas a club more than 11,000 square feet in size has been elected 11 times as the most superior country music club of the year (Joseph, 2012). Many country music venues are staged as a bar or nightclub setting allow its customers the option to drink alcoholic beverages and dance to their favorite country music songs. Most county music venues illustrate the culture behind country music, in which many have a western or rodeo theme established in the venue.

Various venues established for country music fans are favored by these individuals because of their lively setting that matches the expressions placed within the music itself. Most venues sell alcohol products and have areas for country music group dancing. Some venues even provide areas for mechanical bull riding, while others allow fans to watch a live rodeo. Venues such as the Bluebird Café are well known and are frequented by top country music singers (Joseph, 2012). These places also provide opportunity for aspiring musicians, such as Taylor Swift who was also given a record deal after she was discovered within the venue. The leading venues are generally in communities, in which the culture of country music is shared in abundance. This establishes that fans of the genre are allotted to express comfortableness among peers.

The average country music fan is 45 and has an average income of $75,392. Seventy five percent own their own home with an average value of $228,586. Forty eight percent of country music fans are male and 52% percent are female (Hackett, 2011). More than 90% of country music listeners are white (Tucker, 2007). In other words, 90% of the listening audience is middle-class and white.

Patriarchy is another very important aspect in country music. Most artists choose not to meddle too much with controversial subjects, to keep from losing popularity and in turn record sales. The few artists that have tested the boundaries, such as the Dixie Chicks and K.D. Lang, have been met with mixed success. K.D. Lang took it a little too far for the conservative country crowd when she announced that she was homosexual. She ended up switching genres to pop music and has enjoyed a successful career. The Dixie Chicks seem to have pushed all of the boundaries and have been tremendously successful as a result (Wiggins, 2009).

The aesthetic value of Country Music is definitely present. However, there are many who do not see the aesthetic value just as they are many who do not see the aesthetic value in other genres of music. There are many who consider Country Music to be the music of the poor and uneducated. According to Shusterman (1999) who was referring to a writer of a famous essay, “If James was blind to the aesthetic charms of these hillbilly homes, today’s philosophers remain deaf to the appeal of the popular music with which such mountain homes have always been associated. Though country music has blossomed into America’s most popular sound, it remains, among intellectuals, the most scorned and unexamined musical genre.” Granted, there are those who believe that country music is beneath them and that it represents an era that should be left in the past, it is still a huge part of popular music. Listeners of country music will find the music to exhibit aesthetic value in the lyricism of the songs and the accompanying music. The lyrics are generally very colorful and thought provoking. The stories told through country music are always able to stir one’s emotions. Some of the songs will make one cry while others will make one laugh.

One of the best parts about country music is that even with this genre of music there is a large variety musical styles. For example, one person may come from a family where there are generations of country music lovers. The grandmother may not like the version of country music that her grandchildren listen to, and they may not like hers. However, they can all be true country music lovers. There are some country music with very sad lyrics, to the point where some people may consider it to be depressing. However, this is not true for all country music. There also exist very upbeat country music songs. Likewise, there are some lyrics for country music songs that have sad messages, but the sound is so beautiful. One very popular Country Music artist is Bonnie Raitt. Click on the speaker to listen to one of her songs.

The song playing is “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. The song says that “you can’t make your heart feel something that it won’t” The lyrics of this song are very soulful. I love the way that the song was arranged. It is in keeping with the cadence that country music has a tendency to follow. However, instead of it telling a story per se, it gives a common scenario of the heartbreak that is associated with breaking up. The sound of the song is very beautiful, calming, and soothing. The song is about finally letting go and releasing the person because the singer has finally realized that they cannot make the person feel the same love that the subject feels. Even though the song is about giving up the fight for someone’s love it is not a song that leaves one feeling sad or depressed. Tears may fall as a result of listening to the song, but they will be cleansing tears of release.

Country and Western Music appeals to the souls of many age groups. The majority of county western listeners grew up listening to their parents or grandparents music that probably was considered Honky-tonk or bluegrass (Scaruffi, 2012). Country and Western has made many changes from the past to the present times. Country and Western once heard by mostly Caucasian are currently being listened to by many other ethnic groups. Many country western singers today will give credit to either a parent or grandparent who introduced them to the genre at a young age to this genre of music.

Music currently is taking a turn in different directions with all genres of music. Country Western music once was filled with the likes of Johnny Cash to Carrie Underwood. The trends of Country Western change because the people change. Today’s Country and Western has a more up-tempo beat and the change in beats has caused a mainstream in crossover music. Changes occur with new technology in music sounds, such as in the past there were more banjos heard on the songs. Today there is techno beats from synthesizers to drum beat machines (The Alternate Root, 2013). The music lyrics change due to different situations that the writer has faced in current times. As new age emerges, new artists, sounds, and songs will evolve to reflect the new age era of music.

Country music has been a popular genre for decades. Starting in the poor Southern United States it gained popularity speaking to the working class about the struggles and triumphs that everyone faces in their lives. Its fans tend to be conservative and white working class people. To stay competitive and sell more records, country music has morphed over the years. Modern country has a strong resemblance to pop music yet it still retains its typical messages to the working class American public. Some artists have begun to challenge the status quo and are speaking out against the typical patriarchy of old school country music. The next barrier for country music is the race barrier. For country music to continue to grow its market it must focus on the racial barriers that have troubled the genre for so many years.

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