What started out as an attempt to bridge the gap between the mainstream and the independent country side has turned into a philosophical rambling on artistic legacy in country music. Granted, the latter hasn’t quite been as touched upon as the former has, but that’s why we’re here today.
To recap, it’s not an uncommon occurrence to see people comparing and contrasting who’s “doing it right” in the mainstream or who’s making the biggest waves in the independent side. To expand further on this, it’s also not uncommon to see people comparing the artists of today to the artists of the past, questioning who’s going to ultimately be remembered as we move further on down the road.
They say that all good things come to an end, and in terms of what we’re doing here at Country Music Minds, it’s another valid point. After all, this is a music blog, and while music is an important, no, essential part of many peoples’ lives, it’s not the end all be all. I don’t think I need to run down a list of things in this day and age that are more important to keep your eye on rather than our latest review or the latest news about [insert name here]’s new album, but you get the point.
Branching off of that, it makes me wonder how long music will actually be remembered. Granted, it’s been around for God knows how long and is still with us here today, but in terms of music, particularly country music as a commercial entity? It hasn’t been extremely long in the grand scheme of things, people (since 1923).
I remember one time I was asked by a friend what my parent’s names were. At first I thought it was a joke but with a grin on his face, I could see something was up. So I told him, only to have him then ask me what my grandparent’s names were. Of course I said them as well, and then later on my great grandparents, and finally my great, great grandparents. I stopped at that point because I didn’t know. I told him, “who the hell remembers their great, great grandparents?”. He replied, “exactly, we’re all going to be forgotten at some point”. It was such a frightening discovery but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t true.
Anyway, I get that his example revoled around normal, everyday people instead of well, famous people. Hell, we still remember Shakespeare, George Washington, Rosa Parks…people who made a difference of course, just as we still remember names like Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings plus many more today. But still, when looking at all of the country legends I just mentioned, didn’t you expect me to list all of those names just now?
When we do talk of the great country legends of the past, the same names mentioned above are always sure to come up. You might hear someone throw out a name like Buck Owens, Glen Campbell, Charley Pride, Jimmie Rodgers or Kitty Wells or someone else every now and then, but certainly not in the same capacity (at least I haven’t seen any examples). I should clarify that I don’t mean to belittle any of those artists. When I say they’re not mentioned as much, I only mean in terms of how much their name is uttered as a whole. For example, how many people do you normally see wearing Johnny Cash shirts at various places as opposed to say, well really anyone else? Exactly.
And what about the other artists even “below” them? The only time I really hear Hank Snow’s name mentioned is when I hear that he was Johnny Cash’s biggest influence, and the first time I heard of Ernest Tubb was through his record shop (I was seventeen, so relax…).
A larger overall point that still remains is, how long will even “the greats” be remembered? Think of it people, country music hasn’t even be a commercial entity for 100 years yet. It’s somewhat close, but still, not all that far removed. How about when when we reach the 22nd century? Or the 23rd? Or hell, when we get to the year 3000? Of course we won’t be alive, but will anything left of the spirit of the genre be?
I don’t ask this because I have a solution. Hell, with the rapid changes that occur with technology everyday it’s hard to know what the future will look like. It’s hard to know when the good times will end. Will music still maintain a place in peoples’ hearts? Will we one day be controlled by robots? Hell, I don’t know. Country music is known for honoring its past, but as history stretches on, what will happen? If it is forgotten eventually, when? And who will be the last artist standing?
Now, for those of you exclaiming that genres don’t matter and there’s no need to worry about country music, I hear you, don’t worry. I’m not trying to preserve the past or say why it’s obvious the legends are 1000% better. I’m just raising a question.
Perhaps it would be interesting to generate some theories into this. I don’t have a solid answer as of yet, but it might be fun to think of one. It might be fun for you as well. It also might be sad thinking about it. For me, I think that’s why the here and now matters. Sure, this is just a blog, and it won’t be around sometime in the future. None of them will be, but that’s why we got to have fun now. As someone once told me, it’s important to hold onto something that’s (maybe) not quite important in today’s world.