Monday, August 30, 2010

Can Conservatives Rock?

"Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac,
A little voice inside my head said, 'Don't look back, you can never look back.'"

I hate to be petty and exclusive about something as important as music, but my answer to the question of my title is a clear "No." The reality is that the primary voices in music for the last 50 years are all liberal voices. They are the voices of many races, many countries, many perspectives. They are the voices of poor neighborhoods and desperation, drug experimentation and sexuality, challenge and change. If Walt Whitman were around in the late 20th century, he would have been a rock musician.

Of course, that is the grand sweep I am talking about, not the counter-argument of a tired, drugged-out Elvis embracing Richard Nixon or a whacked-out Ted Nugent who would like to hunt all of us with his bow and arrow. Certainly there are rockers who tend toward the dark side of the Force. But they lose their authenticity when that happens.

The voices of rock music, blues, folk music, rap and hip-hip are the voices that represent the grand America that exists out there beyond the white, wealthy, church-controlled status quo Americans who have always gotten mad about anything that challenges their exclusive control of our country. In the 60's they'd have been threatened, in the 70's they'd have been outraged.

But at some point past the '70s, as their corporations got more and more control of popular music, they thought it was finally safe to embrace it.

The drift from the disco of the late '70s to the synth-pop that followed made the varieties of "rock" accessible to all the conservatives who had been shut out. That is the failure of the 80's as a decade of music. It had no rebellion attached to it, and so all the little Reaganites joined our party. Now, three decades later, any little Neo-Con thinks he and she can crank tunes in his and her car that run counter to every fiber of his and her political being and, in doing so, share in the culture he and she so abhor.

If you have right-wing friends who think that they can tap into the vibes of rock 'n roll or rap, Dylan or Dido, they are simply lying to themselves. It makes me sad. And it scares me.

See, whether or not you think music is in decline (I don't, I just think it has changed), the players have not changed a bit. The people who are singing the songs today are the same outcasts, gays, fornicators, drug users, bi-racial, tri-racial people that have always done the singing. In short, everyday Americans like you and me.

To join in that, you have to join in the many, many Americas that are out there. You have no choice. If you can't do that, you have no business listening. Not in my book.

Oh, yeah, and, pissed off as I am at the conservatives in America right now, I won't even concede country music to them. Nothing except the corporate-bullshit country music that either a) tries to create a past that never existed or b) tries to tap into some bland, patriotic values. The real country music of then or now has nothing to do with either of those themes. It has always been about lost love, the road, the plight of people trying to get by and doing what they have to do.

It's kind of obvious, really. A conservative outlook and music do not mix. A conservative outlook and art do not mix. A conservative outlook and a popular culture of food, film, television, and style do not mix. If they did, we'd all be listening to Perry Como, hanging Thomas Kincaid paintings in our homes, eating casseroles, and still watching Andy Griffith.

I fear, when people are willing to travel to hear a far right-wing television personality speak at the Washington Monument, that the liberal voices are facing a setback in this country. I fear the backlash against having a black president that seems to be coming to fruition. I fear the ignorance.

But then I remember the music, and I remember that conservatives don't rock. They don't rap, they don't protest in song, and they don't move us with a sexy rhythm or tell the truth about what it takes to try to live a life. And then I think, maybe, just maybe, it will be okay.


Hezaire said...

amazing food for thought this early in the morning! i'll be mulling this over the rest of my day. thanks!

troutking said...

Great post, Bob. If only there was some slugocide going on...starting with Glenn Beck. Or better, just render him as mute as a slug (as far as we know.)

Check out this pathetic list of conservative rock stars, some of this is sketchy evidence and they later recanted. Even so, no-talent ass-clowns, except for Clapton, but he was drunk.

Bob said...

Thanks for the link, Trout. Yet another reason to hate Phil Collins.

John said...

Bob, your hatred of Phil Collins goes way, way back, as I recall.

Billy said...

Enjoyed this, but I have to draw a line at tri-sexual. I don't quite know what that is, but it sounds just wrong unless it's one of those vehicles with pedals and three wheels.

Oh wait. You said tri-racial. I'm totally down with that. I think we should start a rumor that Glenn Beck is tri-racial. He'd shed fans faster 'n' cockroaches can mate.

Michael said...

Don't know about conservatives, but we libertarians have been rockin' it for ages! And doing it pretty well, to boot.

troutking said...

Well, Glenn Beck IS a Mormon. Pretty sure some of his fundamentalist fans wouldn't think too much of that.