On Jan. 21, when up to 50,000 people attended the Womenâ€™s March in Austin and hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the same purpose, social media was lit up with #WomensMarch tweets, posts and photos. Protesters and marchers took to the internet to share their views on the day and what it meant to them.
Another group of people who shared their views on that dayâ€™s events: country music stars.
Unable to be in DC today but my heart is with everyone at the @womensmarch #womensrightsarehumanrights #WomensMarch âť¤ď¸ŹâśŚď¸Źâť¤ď¸Ź pic.twitter.com/xGqQ7xsPv7
â€” Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) January 21, 2017
Saw the women's march this morning on the way to the airport. The first amendment at it's finest.
â€” Brothers Osborne (@brothersosborne) January 21, 2017
Today and every day. pic.twitter.com/Qniabn5m6m
â€” Karen Fairchild (@KarenFairchild) January 21, 2017
So proud of all the women and men coming together today to lead by an example of love and solidarity. #WomensMarch pic.twitter.com/b3Nl9URz7D
â€” Jennifer Nettles (@JenniferNettles) January 21, 2017
Never ever ever give up! #WomensMarch pic.twitter.com/Gmy90A271x
â€” Kristian Bush (@kristianbush) January 21, 2017
Once you think about it, it doesnâ€™t seem so far fetched. Entertainers are people, too, with lives and thoughts and political views. But in todayâ€™s ever-polarizing political climate, some of the voices of the â€śshut up and singâ€ť school of thought have become more prominent. We want our entertainers to entertain and notÂ proselytize, the thought process goes.
Country stars used to be shunned for expressing atypical political views. Almost 14 years ago, when Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines spoke out in London against President George W. Bushâ€™s stance on Iraq, the trio was quickly made a pariah in Nashville. On top of the radio silence they received from DJs, the trio received death threats for their views and got involved in a longtime feud with Toby Keith, who rose to stardom off of his uber-patriotic songs in the wake of 9/11.
Now, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as Americaâ€™s 45th president, many country stars are becoming more and more politically active. The tweets and Facebook posts referenced above are just a drop in the ocean of country stars expressing their views.
Some, like Americana singer/songwriter Jason Isbell, express their views with a dry sense of humor. Hereâ€™s a tweet from him following news of President Trumpâ€™s proposed immigration ban:
Americans should be afraid of brown food not brown people
â€” Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) January 31, 2017
Margo Price, who tweets and posts regularly about political news and who used her November 9 NPR â€śTiny Deskâ€ť concert as an opportunity to mourn the election results, also had this to say about the immigration ban:
Yes, yes it is. Still waiting for others to stand up for what is right and not let fear silence us. #NoBanNoWall https://t.co/m3fndNFYSI
â€” Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) January 29, 2017
And this, on deleting ride-sharing app Uber from her phone, in the wake of that companyâ€™s dropping of surge prices near JFK Airport in an effort to capitalize off of a cab driverâ€™s strike:
Well, I will really miss ordering late night munchies via @UberEATS but this aggression will not stand, man. @lyft all the way #deleteUber
â€” Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) January 29, 2017
Hereâ€™s Natalie Maines on Twitter, joking about Sean Spicerâ€™s â€śalternative factsâ€ť explanation of Trumpâ€™s inauguration crowd size:
I told my kids it was time to study and they told me not to worry about it. They're going to get straight A's using alternative facts.
â€” Natalie Maines (@1NatalieMaines) January 23, 2017
And here she is again, in a bit of a deja vu moment:
People of the world,
I'd like to apologize for the un-American racist and religious intolerance being spewed by our hateful President.
â€” Natalie Maines (@1NatalieMaines) January 29, 2017
Maren Morris, who has also spoken out on gun control following last yearâ€™s shooting in Orlando, is also angry at the â€śshut up and singâ€ť mentality foisted upon women in country music:
The stars who are expressing their frustration are historically in good company. Johnny Cash was always a mouthpiece for â€śthe poor and the beaten down, living on the hopeless hungry side of town.â€ť Merle Haggard sang about how he was happy to be an â€śOkie from Muskogeeâ€ť when he was disheartened by protests of the Vietnam War. Willie Nelson has a new song coming out bemoaning the states of politics in America. And the Drive-By Truckers, who have long been political, released countryâ€™s most liberal-leaning album of the last decade (decades?) last year in â€śAmerican Band.â€ť
But now, with the ability to shoot off an opinion at the touch of a button, many country stars (and entertainers in general) are encouraged and expected to have a point of view on the politics of the day. If the Dixie Chicks were at their peak popularity today and not in 2003, they would be just as viciously attacked if they didnâ€™t say anything about the president. Gone are the days of being judged solely on your artistic merits. Now, every entertainer is judged on their artistic merits and if their politics line up with those of their fans. Itâ€™s becoming increasingly hard to divorce the two.
And many media outlets are expecting country stars to speak out.
The very act of playing a presidential event is in itself considered political. When Lee Greenwood, historically a Republican who has played at the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, was selected to play Trumpâ€™s inauguration party, he got grilled by an overeager Rolling Stone Country reporter eager to catch the â€śGod Bless the U.S.A.â€ť singer in a series of â€śgotchaâ€ť questions:
â€śPresident-elect Trumpâ€™s campaign was ruthless and controversial. Did you have any reservations about performing for him?
Well, no, because Iâ€™m not really performing for him. The Inaugural Committee chose entertainers to come and entertain the crowd.â€ť
Texasâ€™ own Randy Rogers Band had to issue a reassurance tweetÂ when news broke that they were playing a pre-inauguration party in D.C. that routinely features Texas artists and has been in effect for decades. And everyone just assumed it was a given when Toby Keith was selected to perform at the inauguration.
A recent article from Rolling Stone Country argues â€śWhy Itâ€™s Time for Country Stars to Speak Up About Trump.â€ťÂ But what that article fails to realize is that while artists like Margo Price, Jason Isbell, Drive-By Truckers and Maren Morris are infusing the genre with more liberal politics, many of the members of countryâ€™s old guard are either savvy enough to remain apolitical, like Dolly Parton, or they supported Trump in the first place, like Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Dunn or Travis Tritt.
Thereâ€™s a reason most of the country artists you see speaking out liberally about politics are either indie artists or young artists: they can afford it. Most of their fans expect them to have those views anyway. And whether theyâ€™re entertainers or not, everyoneâ€™s got an opinion on everything these days, and itâ€™s easier to share those opinions than ever. Country stars are people, too, whether you agree with their politics or not. If youâ€™re a liberal country music fan or a conservative country music fan, just keep in mind to consider the source of those political views. Donâ€™t let Margo Priceâ€™s political views detract from the fact that her debut album is amazing. Donâ€™t let CharlieÂ Danielsâ€™ stance on Hillary Clinton blind you to his fiddle playing. Besides, itâ€™s not news when Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood play a Trump inauguration. Call me when the Drive-By Truckers do. Thatâ€™ll be news.
Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where itâ€™s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this weekâ€™s Country Music Roundup.
Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.]]