In college I settled on Family 101 to make up the credits in Psychology for my freshman year course load. I was surprised when the professor opened the first class by asking who in the room liked country music. Still being intently lodged in preferring rock and roll at the time, I didn't find it at all amazing when only a couple people raised their hands. After all, who really enjoyed that outdated stuff besides old people?
The professor then stated, "The reason that most people don't like country songs is that it hits too close to home for comfort."
Imagine just how much impact this had on a room of young 20-somethings. I forgot all about it until reading some excerpts from a new book, "Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music." The author once asked the man who wrote all time great country songs like, I Fall To Pieces by Patsy Cline and Heartaches By The Number by Ray Price, what constituted a hit. To which Harlan replied, "Three chords and the truth."
Isn't that interesting. Henry Horenstein loves country music for the stories the songs tell. And while a lot of people assume that the lovers of this genre tend to be poor, farmers, people living in Texas or the Southeastern states and rednecks or hillbillies - this concept is totally wrong. Henry grew up in a large city on the East Coast. That's a long way from Abilene, the Smokies and midwestern farmland. He started following the scene when Dolly Parton was just a girl who sang, not some mega star who owns an amusement park and appears in movies.
Today's audience of fans isn't that much different than it was in the era that Horenstein's words and images portray. They come from all over the country, even global locations, and represent all walks of life. The average country music fan today is a homeowner with a median income of over $70,000 and one in two have an annual income of over $100,000.
Country music isn't regional. To quote someone's comment on a blog I was on the other day, "Country ain't a place - its a state of mind."
There are some great stories in country songs. They aren't all sad. One of my more recent favorites is about some millionaire who had a beer with a stranger and the man left him his fortune. At first it sounds like some kind of pipe dream the average Joe could have, falling into riches out of thin air. Yet, when you really listen to the story and truly think about it, it has deeper meaning. It touches on things like being a real down to earth person who is friendly and approachable having far more value to others than superficiality. There are other messages in the lyrics of this song lurking within the words that bring a smile to your face. Have you heard it?
Three chords, the truth and a great story anyone from anywhere can connect with and enjoy. That's what makes country songs so popular. It relates to our real lives. I have to agree with Billy Currington, God is good, beer is great and people are... well, crazy.
You can get a copy of "Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music" by Henry Horenstein from Amazon. Looks like a great read. A fan's recollections of country from the beginning through present day. By the way, Amazon says we need to tell you that if you happen to buy this book with that link, Ben will make about ten cents in commission. We thank you in advance for contributing to his piggy bank.
This post was contributed by Tammy from eBasix, who never wished to become a big Nashville star, though she has managed to wear out two guitars... so far.