My middle child and I are having a disagreement about music. The dust up is over a band called Whiskey Myers. Chad recently told me about these guys and through the magic of Apple Music, I looked them up, sampled a few songs, and downloaded their latest album. Apple Music, like Amazon Prime, is about as close as one can get to having a crack dealer.
Whiskey Myers is a Southern Rock band with good songs, an interesting singer, and enough variety to keep listening. I play them from time to time but have recently been flooded by other music and neglecting the guys.
Nathaniel Rateliff has a new album. I’ve rediscovered legends John Prine and James McMurtry, and the death of Dolores O’Riordan reminded me of the genius of the Cranberries, which reminded me of intriguing girl singers, which brought new interest in the Pretenders. So I’ve been busy.
In a more recent phone conversation, Chad told me he wanted us to learn “Ballad of a Southern Man“, a Whiskey Myers song he likes. So I downloaded the song and the chords. The first verse perturbed me significantly.
In two stanzas and a chorus, “Ballad of a Southern Man” clicked every box of the Republican political strategy of the last fifty years; God, Guns, and White Supremacy. This has not only worked extremely well in American political races, it excels in the music world, especially Country Music. Charlie Daniels, Toby Keith, and Hank Jr, have made millions hitting those same hot points over and over. Many others have followed suit; artistically and financially.
I’ve never been a fan of such stuff. Those talking points are inflammatory, too simple, and untrue. The history of America is steeped in intriguing, complicated events and issues not easily explained in song verses or bumper stickers. But bumper stickers and song verses match our political philosophy and attention span. So they work.
Ballad immediately mentioned gun ownership, family loyalty, religion, and disdain for rich, establishment figures. In the second verse, they offer a stanza that reads: “We still pledge the original way and say ‘Merry Christmas’ not ‘Happy Holidays’.”
As we should know, the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was geared toward schoolkids, dreamed up by two flag salesmen brothers, and made no mention of God. Most people this song is targeting think Franklin and Jefferson penned the Pledge in the original Constitution.
As far as Christmas is concerned, anyone that thinks saying Happy Holidays diminishes Christ, hasn’t been paying attention. Christmas is the most lucrative holiday of the year worldwide, lost any semblance of reverence decades ago, and was stolen from a pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice called Saturnalia. Happy Holidays indeed.
I’ve been conflicted about my southern-ness since I realized black people were just like I was and quit standing for “Dixie,” forty years ago. I’m proud of my heritage but am trying to reconcile my past while moving forward. Waving the Stars and Bars in one hand while brandishing my AR 15 doesn’t work for me. Besides, the Republicans have used this formula to slowly destroy the middle and working class of America under the very noses of those most damaged by it.
I like my Southern Boy songs with at least a little more thought. After cooling down from hearing “Ballad of a Southern Man,” I downloaded “Good Old Boys Like Me,” a classic by the honey voiced, incomparable Don Williams.
I’m better now.