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COLUMN NINETY-THREE, JUNE 15, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
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says it aims to provide varied material of interest to people
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Heretofore, we were under the impression that Portside is the Internet's voice of the Left. But it turns out to be the Internet's voice of the fundamentalist Far-Left, which, like all fundamentalist organizations, adheres to an orthodoxy and consequently refuses to post dissident or differing opinions from within the Left---such as HATE YOUR GOVERNMENT BUT LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, available to be read in SECTION ONE of COLUMN SEVENTY. Fundamentalists, like fascists, will not tolerate any disagreements or variations from the fundamentalist orthodoxy.
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A BIG BOO FOR COUNTRY MUSIC
Subject: Another Country
Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 17:03:39 -0400
The Guardian (UK)
May 27, 2003
Whereas country music used to celebrate people who bucked the system, recent criticism of the Dixie Chicks shows just how ossified and reactionary it has become, writes Duncan Campbell
By Duncan Campbell
It was the Academy of Country Music awards ceremony in Las Vegas last week and, being an old, if casual,
country fan, I watched it. The whole notion of an "academy" of country music is pretty silly, of course, and something that every old country musician would have mocked as the pretentious piece of commercial nonsense that it is.
Still, I was interested to see what sort of response the Dixie Chicks, who were nominated in three categories, would receive. Since their lead singer, Natalie Maines, said on stage in London that they were "ashamed" that President Bush was also from Texas, they have been subjected to death threats, boycotts and abuse. Leading much of the criticism has been fellow country singer, Toby Keith, who was also a nominee on the night.
The Dixie Chicks were not at the ceremony but appeared live via satellite from a concert in Austin. One could
not help but notice that Maines's T-shirt had the letters FUTK on it. The last two letters, it transpired, stood for Toby Keith. (Heaven only knows what the first two stood for.)
Anyway, the Dixie Chicks won nothing. When Vince Gill announced their names by playing to the crowd with a knowing sotto vocce, there were loud boos. The evening's host, Reba McEntire, who started the night with an obligatory sneer at the French, said afterwards that the Dixie Chicks had received a "pretty big negative response".
What the three-hour show demonstrated most of all, however, was the grim state of current country music.
Back in the seventies, musicians like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson - the "outlaws"
as they were known - provided a much-needed injection of spirit and wit into the ossified form of country.
Wonderful song writers like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, John Prine and Steve Earle arrived on the scene
followed by many others; Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent are two that have just been on my CD player.
Some of this percolated into the mainstream but it seems to have had little lasting effect, although Willie Nelson did appear at the ceremony and won the vocal event of the year award.
Country music stations, once a dependable companion for a cross-country drive, now play the same forgettable mix of bland on bland that was on display at the ceremony.
Merle Haggard wrote the classic reactionary anthem, Okie from Muskogee - "We don't smoke marijuana in
Muskogee/We don't take our trips on LSD" - back in the 1970s. You didn't have to agree with his sentiments to recognise that it was a great song and he was a great songwriter.
In contrast, Toby Keith's equivalent, Courtesy of the Red White and Blue, is banal both in word and music.
The fact that he won an award as "entertainer of the year" - surely that should have gone the Iraqi minister
of information - says it all.
The sad thing is that country music, at its best, used to celebrate outsiders, people who bucked the system.
The awards ceremony showed that it has now passed completely into the hands of the kind of folks who look
up suspiciously in westerns when a stranger comes into the saloon. Much of the music sounds as though it has
been written by a self-pitying computer.
Still, whatever happened in Las Vegas, the Dixie Chicks are playing to sold-out houses on their national tour.
Country music, at least the kind that was on display in Las Vegas, needs them more than they need country
Many of the participants in the awards ceremony dressed like cowboys. But for some reason, sheep were the
animals that kept coming to mind.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
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