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My dirty little (country) secret
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D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat. Her column is published here each Tuesday. Opinions expressed are solely her own.

Dear readers, I want to share something with you all. It is something that those close to me already know, but still, something I have never admitted publicly. So today, in this forum, I will take a deep breath and say it: I love country music.

I learned to love music at an early age, and when I was younger I even believed I had a modest gift to sing. So I sang in the church choir and in choral ensembles during my school years. It was during my choral ensemble years that I developed an appreciation for various kinds of music.

I love gospel and blues. I love pop and soul. I love old hymns and beautifully arranged scores. There are even a few rap songs that I like, and in my older years I fell in love with Luciano Pavarotti. As a black woman, I have been happy to acknowledge my love for all music genres -- except country.

I suppose my shame in loving country music is tied up in the fact that it is, first, “country.” When I was in grade school, being called “country” was a bad thing. And with my ashy heels, nappy “kitchen” and the yam biscuit in my lunch sack, I really was country, but I didn’t want anyone else knowing it.

As an adult, country music on some level seemed tied to the Deep South and old Dixie, a la Hank Williams, Jr, so again I was, as I imagine many African Americans are, unwilling to admit that I was a closet country music lover. By daytime I listened to Diana Ross and the Supremes. By night it was Charlie Pride and Conway Twitty. I told my friends I loved Teddy Pendergrass and Barry White, but they never guessed that I secretly cheated with Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

For me, country music is like a steaming-hot bowl of soup -- full of leftovers and things stored up, all dumped into a pot together, that comes out tasting warm and delicious. Country music is a plainly beautiful, flavorful mess.

I love hearing Loretta Lynn sing:

“Women like you come a dime a dozen you can buy em anywhere. For you to git to him, I’d have to move over and I’m gonna stand right here. It will be over my dead body so git out while you can. Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.”

And Joe Diffie sing:

“Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die. Lord, I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go tonight. Fill my boots up with sand. Put a stiff drink in my hand. Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die.”

And finally this song by Toby Keith:

“Justice is the one thing you should always find.
You got to saddle up your boys,
you got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon.
We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.”

Country music says what so many of us want to say when we are confronted with many of life’s problems, with titles like:

“Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”

“Queen of My Double-Wide Trailer”

“I Work a 40-hour Week for a Living”

One of my favorite country songs was recorded by David Allen Coe and called “You Never Even Call Me By My Name.” The song is a rather winding song about a man proclaiming to his love that he will hang around as long as she lets him and that she doesn’t have to call him by his name.

At the end of the song, Coe gives credit to the man who wrote the song, Steve Goodman. Coe says Goodman sent him the lyrics, proclaiming it the perfect county song. Coe says he wrote back to Goodman saying it wasn’t a perfect country song because it didn’t say anything about mama, trains, trucks, prison or getting drunk. According to the singer, Goodman sat down and wrote another verse to the song and after reading it, Coe pronounced it the perfect county song, and it goes like this:

“Well I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison and I went to pick her up in the rain, and before I could get to the station in my pickup truck she got runned over by a damned old train.”

Now that’s country music.

If you also like country music, you may confess it now.

Til next week, Yee haw, ya’ll!



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November 23, 2014
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