What is it about the relationship between alcohol and country music? Sure, every genre of music brushes up against the idea of drinking. Rock bands often sing about their partying ways. Rap music will often give a shout-out to a specific type of liquor. But it’s country music that has historically always leaned so heavily on the idea of drinking booze, primarily whiskey. “Whisky and Women,” “Whiskey River,” “If the Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” and so many more; it’s almost as if that dark, smoky bourbon shares a special place with country music musicians. And that’s because it does. There are a few reasons that the greatest songwriters out there speak about alcohol in their songs.
First and foremost, country music, even the hit country music you hear on the radio today, is primarily a southern American thing. This isn’t etched in stone, obviously. From Shania Twain and Keith Urban to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, many of the greats were born far outside of Dixie. Even stars like Johnny Paycheck were from Ohio, although he had a great southern-style voice. It’s just that the hit country music you hear today on the radio really took off with Hank Williams, Sr., and he was from Alabama. Then it was closely followed by a lot of awesome musicians from Texas, like Bob Wills, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc. In the American south, whiskey is not just a drink – it is the drink of choice. A strong bourbon to wash those blues away.
Of course, washing those blues away is another very important reason why alcohol plays such a major part in the hit country music radio tunes you listen to today, along with all those classics of yesteryear. Rarely do country music songwriters write songs about the rims on their car and the gold chains they’re wearing. That’s a rap thing. Nor do these artists really write about the hotel rooms they destroyed while on tour. That’s a rock thing. In country music, it’s all about writing from the heart, and the heart unfortunately gets broken a lot. The number-one reason people claim they drink alcohol is to deal with emotional pain. The number-one type of song churned out by country music artists deals with emotional pain. Two and two – these things just to together.
For a purely aesthetic reason, alcohol iconography on custom country music t-shirts also looks pretty cool!
Perhaps the biggest reason that alcohol and country go so well together, however, is that this is what the audience wants. Country is undoubtedly the most relatable genre for the every-man, and people want to hear songs they identify with.
So, the next time you crank up your country music radio station and hear a jam about drinking, just know that someone’s real emotional pain led them to that song, and there are millions who can relate. The relationship between alcohol and country music isn’t going anywhere.