I’m black. Country music is supposedly white. But this summer my father and I reveled in the sounds of the South.
A beautiful and well written piece. It gives me hope.
Pain, loss. grit, and hope know nothing of race, sex, religion or country or origin. These are universal emotions and all part of a shared human experience. May the journey of one inform and inspire the journey of all.
Evan Gardner needs to replace Chris Anderson as TED Head. Such a sagacious piece by such a young man. You’re going places, Evan! Stay strong!
Of all his many fine sentences, this stood out: “To insist on viewing country, or any other art form, through a racial lens is to obscure its history and to miss the beauty in that art form. It is to sap the art of its art.”
Two days ago I toured the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh. Amidst all breathtaking masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frederic Edwin Church, Benjamin West, Sir Henry Raeburn, and other masters too numerous to list, was posted an innocuous 8.5x11 piece of paper announcing that the NGS is reviewing its collection as part of its “core research purpose as well as our commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion.”
Guess I’m just that privileged white Karen who simply wants to savor the art of art, but I’ve got to ask, when will this stop?
By the way, I was born and raised in CT, lived five years in South Carolina, have returned to CT, and am now looking at property back in SC. The dirty little secret up here is the South has nothing on the Northeast when it comes to racism.
Been there, done that, son. :-) I’m a middle-aged black woman who appreciates…Black Sabbath. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been the only dark face in the crowd -- at least as far as the eye could see -- at a rock concert. And I’ve never let that bother me. Life’s too short to let other people dictate what kind of music I should like.
I’ve always had a soft spot for alt-country, and lately I’ve been diving into the real thing. Lots of Chris Stapleton and Zac Brown Band on my playlist these days. Cheers!
This is one of the best essays featured in the FP. I can’t wait to read more of Evan’s writing. Thank you.
Write on! “Nothing that endures—nothing with value—is about race at all. It goes beyond that.” Thank you Evan for that fine sentence.
You picked up more education than you will get at Brown. Look at all the race stereotypes you carried around in your backpack and you enter the world and are puzzled that most of it just isn’t so.
Evan, you are a talented writer. It is not only your writing that impresses me, but it’s your open mind and your open heart you willingly expose. You have a brave authenticity and young people like you will be the ones who help build some much needed bridges in our culture.
You and your Dad bridging a generation, your open mind bridging music genres and your heart bridging racial divides makes you shine. I loved every word of your essay.
Since you mentioned Charlie Pride I’ve saved a quote of his and it seems fitting to share it here.
“They used to ask me how it feels to be the ‘first COLORED country singer.’ Then it was the first ‘NEGRO country singer.’ Then the first BLACK country singer.’ Now I’m the ‘first AFRICAN AMERICAN country singer.’ That’s about the only thing that’s changed. This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and pigments. I call it ‘skin hang ups’-it’s a disease.” Charlie Pride
Oh, my goodness, I loved that. Thank you for giving me a renewed appreciation for country music, music I was raised with but drifted away from as it became more commercialized and as my tastes in music broadened. But like the best blues, the core of country is about suffering, longing, living life on your own terms, which everyone in this world can relate to.
If it weren't for suburban white boys, rap and hip hop wouldn't be a thing. Jay Z, Snoop, Ice Tea and Ice Cube would have been relegated to a niche type of "music" if the people with money, i.e. White Boys, didn't buy the product. So, why did the angry rhymes and rhythms of a Balck art form appeal to a very different listening base? Because it struck a chord in the hearts and minds of people who couldn't identify with the artist, other than to listen to the words.
Country is much the same. Once you get past the "Whiteness" of the artists, you begin to identify with the emotion and poetry of the music itself. That the author, a young Black man, has finally realized, this is not new. Plus the fact that he was raised in a very privileged atmosphere (Hello, cultural appropriation!) makes this article scream "What took you so long?".
I grew up with the sounds of Hank Williams, Ferlin Husky, etc. in my northern city neighborhood, populated by expats from West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and further South who migrated north for the auto industry jobs. It is a part of who I am, and who I will always be. In fact, I moved to Georgia after I retired, so in a sense I am home.
I am glad that a young privileged, Black man from the North has finally had a "Come To Jesus" moment! More power to him.
Among the best pieces i have read on this site. For so many reasons. A young man who gets it. Not that America is perfect but that it is an amalgamation of so many different cultures, religions, races and thinkers that makes us unique . Evan is a thinker who looks for the good but not blindly and without forgetting the rich history ( good and bad) of this complex wonderful country we are privileged to have been born in (or have moved to). I am most curious to hear more from Evan about the reactions to his journey from his classmates at brown and folks back in NYC who have never been to the The Grand Ol Opry and likely have different views about country music.
Excellent piece. It does give one hope that we may find our way out of the current insanity. I mean, hell, I'm an older white guy who still loves and listens to Motown. What you're writing is not incongruous.
What a beautiful and thoughtful article. You are able to articulate the nuance of our daily. Thank you for sharing….
Just a terrific piece. Thank you.
Give folks a chance, the might just surprise you…
Great piece. David Hackett Fischer's African Founders tries to get at the complex presence of African culture that is deeply interwoven into the South's culture. And I think that is what the author here is feeling even though part of the "fabric" is troubled, discredited and rejected by so many. We are one people and Country Music is rooted in that complex oneness.