Friday, December 7, 2007

I heart country music. Now I'll kill myself.

From C and the Columbia School of Journalism, there is a direct correlation between country music and people who commit suicide. Actually, Columbia just reported on the study, which actually was published in 1992 by the University of North Carolina Press and written by Steven Stack at Wayne State University (Motown!) and Jim Gundlach at Auburn University.

Common themes like marital discord and disharmony among the sexes, lyrics that promote drinking as a normal and necessary method for dealing with life's problems, and a sense of bitterness and hopelessness pervade country music.

Holy crap...and here I thought I was just tapping into the soul of america...

but i was just playing with fire.
just me and my old six-string, throwing myself on the funeral pyre
not knowing which way to turn
while the fires just burn, burn, burn...

Hmmm...yeah...that's true. Sort of. But I've always liked the way country music addresses the common experiences of American life. Like the blues and the Corvette, country music is uniquely American. It's something we all invented coming out of the American experience. And good country music, like all good music, can take you away from all the suffering that the authors seem to think puts us on the ledge or our heads in the oven.

But it's gotta be good. I've always said that a lot of country music just picks at the sore. A lot of it is really good at nailing an emotion, but then it just wallows in it. Sometimes that's good. When you're broke, either in the heart or the wallet, country music can let you know you're not alone. But good country, like good blues, nails the emotion then takes you somewhere else.

But a lot of the stuff people call country I wouldn't be caught dead listening to. I was just reading a reviewer the other day (shoot, can't remember where) who said that the big names out of Nashville are talented indeed; it takes a real talent to make something shallow sound deep. That's a lot of the crap that coming out of Nashville. Corporate-sponsored music. The Faith Hills and Toby Keiths of the world are manufactured products made and branded to appeal to a common denominator and fill large stadiums with expensive seats, eight-dollar beers, and forty-dollar t-shirts.

The really good stuff is happening where country, rock, the blues, and punk are all merging with truthful lyrics (not cliche-ridden crap about pickup trucks, drinkin', the bills not getting paid, and my broken heart) and musical passages that knock on the soul whispering to let me in.

Just the other day our paths crossed with a guy who went to school in Austin, and SXSW came up, and he confirmed my worst fears, that SXSW is really nothing more than a big corporate trade show. So where's the next SXSW? I asked. I dunno, he answered, Boulder, maybe. I can't even believe that. Where's there's money, you can't be birthing good music. It has to happen far, far on the edges of the solar system, like where comets and asteroids are born.

But, as far as suicide, I'm not so sure. Yeah, I've wallowed in it in my time, but I also think to some degree, in some weird way, that it also saved my life. It was always comforting to know that there was someone out there who had experienced the same suffering that I had. I think it kept me off the ledge as much as anything.

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