It’s been a week since the mass shooting in Las Vegas and as a way to honor the victims, the famous Strip went dark. Watch as lights that normally burn bright 24/7 flicker and go dark.
Since the Las Vegas shooting, country music has come under a new level of scrutiny. It may be easy for those unfamiliar with it to stereotype it as music for gun-toting rednecks from “The South,” but this demonstrates willful ignorance.
The country music community is not monolithic, a fact that has become increasingly visible since a gunman killed 58 people at the Las Vegas festival. Musicians have begun speaking out, and in some cases changing their minds.
“I’ve been a proponent of the Second Amendment my entire life. I cannot express how wrong I was,” tweeted Caleb Keeter of the Josh Abbott Band, which performed at the festival. In The New York Times, Rosanne Cash called on her fellow country music artists to “stand up to the NRA.” Rolling Stone reports that artists are reevaluating their partnerships with the National Rifle Association’s lifestyle brand.
There are, in fact, a lot of country songs about guns and huntin’, just as there are fans of country music who embrace that culture. And there is nothing wrong with that. But nothing that happened in Las Vegas is the fault of law-abiding citizens who like to hunt and fish. It always perplexes me when someone from a different life experience judges or criticizes another simply because it’s different. I can tell you that for every country music song about guns, there are 10 times more songs about topics all of us can relate to.
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Tim McGraw’s Humble and Kind advises: “When you get where you’re goin’ don’t forget to turn back around / Help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind.”
Kenny Chesney’s Noise highlights the “24-hour television, get so loud that no one listens / Sex and money and politicians talk, talk, talk / But there really ain’t no conversation.”
Eric Church’s Kill A Word demonstrates a powerful use of metaphor: “Cause you can’t unhear, you can’t unsay / But if it were up to me to change / I’d turn ‘lies’ and ‘hate’ to ‘love’ and ‘truth’ / If I could only kill a word.” Maren Morris with Vince Gill just released this song: “Dear Hate / You were smiling from that Selma bridge / In Dallas, when that bullet hit and Jackie cried / You pulled those towers from the sky. But even on our darkest nights / The world keeps spinning ‘round.”
Justin Moore has one of the most poignant songs that speaks to how losing a loved one “wouldn’t be so hard to take, if heaven wasn’t so far away.” One of my favorite live concert moments is when he sings it, thousands of fans put their cellphones in the air and the entire amphitheater lights up. Together, in that moment, all of us are connected through country music.
And that’s what it’s all about. Whether you’re from a big city or a one-stop-light town, work on a farm or in a high-rise office building, we all share in common the experiences of life, love, loss, family and friendship.
To those being exposed to country music for the first time, I hope you embrace Brad Paisley’s outlook: “Turn it on, turn it up and sing along / This is real, this is your life in a song / This is country music.”
Kurt Bardella is a political commentator and the creator and publisher of the @MorningHangover, a daily country music email tip sheet.
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