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Morgan Wallen

Let me preface my remarks today by stating that you cannot out liberal me. You cannot out progress my progressiveness. I am to the left of Eugene Debs. My flank is secure.

That being said, I’m gonna have to disagree with y’all on this Morgan Wallen thing.

It feels too much to me like the Dixie Chicks in reverse.

First off, like most of you, I never heard of Morgan Wallen until this week. I guess he’s a big star. Whatever. I never heard of the act playing this year’s Super Bowl either. So there’s that. I’ve been in a bit of a bubble recently.

But I’ve done a bit of research. Morgan Wallen is another in a long line of rotating Country Bros. They all sound alike. And not just a little alike. I mean completely indistinguishable from each other. Put a cowboy hat on them and they all look alike too. Apparently Wallen is not a hat guy, preferring instead an Achy Breaky Heart mullet that makes him look like Bono at Live-Aid. Whatever.

I’ve listened to his music….and to use Tom Petty’s immortal phrase, it’s just “bad rock with a fiddle”. Songs about drinking and screwing and yee-hawing. One song has SIX songwriters listed….which might be a record. I heard it…..and all I can say is that it needs a seventh.

There’s nothing inherently BAD here. On record the guy sings on key….the guitars are tuned and the production is fine. Hank Williams has nothing to worry about, but I’ve heard way worse.

This guy apparently has a history of being an asshole. Ignoring Covid restrictions. Drunk and disorderly. He’s currently 27 years old…..I suspect we all have some asshole in us at that age. Throw a large bankroll into the mix and the quotient goes up exponentially. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted somebody with a cell phone following me around when I was in my 20s. I’m guessing Willie and Merle and Waylon wouldn’t want transcripts of all their conversations in the public domain either. None of us are as good as we pretend to be.

But there’s the video. For all to see. And hear. The N word.

I ain’t gonna defend any white person’s use of that word. Not now. Not ever.

But is this just some beer’d up insecure kid trying to sound hardcore with his boys, or the fucking grand wizard of the Klan? There is a distinction to be made here I think, and I wish it was made before the Twitter swarm commenced.

If he’s some wild-eyed hardcore racist? Fuck him.

If he’s just some dumb redneck? Is that enough?

Eric Clapton went on a wild, drunken, racist tirade onstage in the 70s. In 1979 a drunken Elvis Costello called Ray Charles a “blind ignorant n-r”. Their careers bent as a result, but did not break. Hardly anybody even remembers anymore. Both were assholes……both repented….and both never repeated the behavior. It’s hard to think of anybody who owes MORE to black artists and Clapton and Costello. And the same can be said for Morgan Wallen, who toils in a genre that would not exist if not for what blacks laid down. Hank Williams learned how to play guitar and write songs from a black man. The Carter Family was mentored by a black man. Bill Monroe was taught how to play by a black man. The banjo, a critical component to country music, originated in Africa. Whites learned to play it from slaves.

That country music became, and has largely remained white, is part of our nation’s original sin. It was all done consciously. There’s nothing secret about any of it. It was about as subtle as standing in the schoolhouse door. There’s certainly lots to talk about here……but I’m not quite sure the current conversation is moving anything forward.

I don’t know if this kid recovers from this or not. Since it happened he’s said all the right things. Apologized profusely. I don’t know if it’s legitimate or not. I would like to find out though.

He may go on the requisite grovel tour, being grilled on “The View” and “The Daily Show” until some good will is back in his sails. He may go the other way and show up on Hannity, searching for right-wing martyrdom. Or he may just slink off to play Skynyrd covers in bars…..another cautionary tale.

Can we see first?

Not everything immediately requires the nuclear option.

In a bit..

–tf

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