Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Dixie Chicks and Free Speech

Ooooooh! It is 06-06-06! Day of the devil! Mark of the Beast! We're all dooooooooomed! Puh-lease.

I read a news story the other day about the "lengths women were willing to go to avoid having their baby born on June 6, 2006." Otherwise known as 6/6/06, or 666, or immediately by virtue of being born on this day your kid is now spawn of the devil day.

I can't believe people would actually make an effort to avoid being born on a certain day. I do know that on 9/11/01 one of my co-workers was in labor. Her labor lasted about 29 hours and her daughter born on 9/12 as a result. She was relieved that the baby didn't share a day with one of the most infamous events in modern western civilization. I told her it would give people something beautiful to think about and remember on that day instead of thinking only about the twin towers and the devastation. She didn't see it that way. She said there were women in the hospital who had their doctors falsify the birth certificates with the following date.

That's going a bit far. I only wanted my doctor to falsify Jess' birthdate so I'd get an extra day in the hospital to lay about on my ass. That's reasonable. But the jerk said something about ethics and yadda yadda. So I didn't get my way and her birthday is still stupid June 11th instead of the 12th.

Part of me says that it would be cool to have 6/6/06 as a birthdate. Just to freak out the squares at the motor vehicle office or college admissions department when they saw the date. Another part says I'd get sick of the "oh, so you're the devil" jokes that will follow for the rest of my life.

To all the babies born this day -- you're not the devil. Enjoy your life. Make it a good one, and kick people in the crotch if they give you crap about your birthday. Say "Why yes. Yes I am satan. Nice to meet you. And you are?" when they get all Blue Collar TV jokester in your face. People will think they are funny, unique and smart by noticing. They're not. It's a day, like any other day. Celebrate it and enjoy it.

Happy birthday kids.

Whatever you do -- just don't get a big tattoo on your scalp with your birthdate, okay? You're just asking for ridicule then.

Well, I wanted to write a big thing about the Dixie Chicks.

I've been doing a lot of thinking, listening and pondering lately in regards to them, Natalie's comments, apology and then retraction of her apology when she spoke of the POTUS over the last couple of years. I've been thinking about what makes a fan, and the sales backlash on their latest album.

As many of you know, in London in 2004 Natalie said on stage that she was sorry Bush was from their home state of Texas. That caught her some serious heat from country fans and radio stations who had mass steamrollings of their CDs in parkinglots all across the south. Then, later on she apologized saying that the office deserves respect.

Last month she took the apology back saying that she is sorry but he's a complete and total idiot and she's had it with his stupidity. She also said that she didn't care if that caused people to steamroll their albums, stop attending their concerts, or shun them because she doesn't want those people as fans. The real fans would stand by them.

Just as a new album is being released, she says she doesn't want the vast majority of people who were beginning to come around to liking them again as fans.

That took some balls.

I started to think about how artists in country differ from artists in rock, and how fans of country are different than fans of rock.

I listen to a LOT of music by bands who I disagree with politically. Rarely do I skip over the songs with topics that I am uncomfortable with, or lyrics which do not resonate with where I am right now. My favorite band, Barenaked Ladies, has a song coming out on their next albut called "Fun and Games" which basically states that the US went into war like it was all fun and games (as the title suggests), and - oh well - some limbs off some soldiers and civilians got blown off in the process. Oops. That's okay. It was fun! Yay!

I don't think that's how this situation was approached at all by our government leaders. Maybe I'm naive, but I think that on the whole the situation is taken very seriously by those in command and that each injury, each loss, is felt. Things are a little different than WWII when thousands fell by the moment and the overall loss couldn't be calculated in thought but just in statistical analysis. How many of them, how many of us... chalk it up on the board and let's go again. Tally ho, pip pip, over the top lads.

Neil Young released his Living With War piece with the impeach the president song, and it sucked. It's a stupid, poorly written piece of clap trap. Not just because I disagree with the premise... but because it is stupid. The man wrote great protest songs in 1968 but seems to have really lost his creative edge with this. On top of that, it sounds as if it was recorded in a bathroom at a Stuckey's, and is just an aural mess. Feh.

And, who is this "we" and "us" he speaks of... last time I checked, Neil was Canadian and not a naturalized US Citizen. Don't speak for me, Neil. And even though I disagree with him, I still love him. He is a part and parcel of who I am, based upon the lyrics of other songs he's given me. I would never steamroll the Neil Young collection. I'll just change the channel and let him speak to others of that ilk who feel the same way when it comes to that song. Period.

For the most part I think I'm fairly typical of rock fans who let their bands say what they want, think what they want, and may skip a song which doesn't sit particularly well, but they won't mass boycott someone they disagree with. Tool has some songs I don't agree with, certainly System of a Down, Audioslave and Rage (I don't listen to a lot of Rage against the Machine because they are all too consuming politically. But there are a few songs I really like). Even the Beastie Boys.

Country fans, however, they are pretty hard core and serious with the whole political thing. You say something in a song, or in an interview, and they are going to let you know they don't like it. Boycott, steamroll, whatever -- they'll give you their opinion instead of sitting back like I do and saying "well, I disagree but everyone is entitled to their own opinion." They'll go nuts it seems.

And that's fine until it gets ugly. Death threats, stalking, really over the top "shut up and sing, bitch" kinds of attitudes have a tendency to go just a little too far.

For that reason, I think I need to just thank Natalie for being brave, for saying what she thinks. And knowing that the caliber of individual who is going to react in this case may, and the manner in which he or she may react, is not the kind of person I want to be associated with, even though we agree on some topics.

I think Natalie's right to speak her mind in song and in interview is fine. I may not buy the album, I may not agree with her stance, but honey, I stand behind her and wish her well in her career.

I shouldn't have to hope for her safety though.

As for folks in my listening realm, I wonder how many death threats Daron Malakian or Zack de la Rocha got from rock fans.

I know on the discussion boards people have pushed back at Steven Page of BNL for his political leanings, and he has basically said that he is entitled to his opinion, and if you don't like it that's fine. You're entitled to yours... but don't tell him to shut up and sing, bitch. I don't think anyone has threatened him though. And I don't know of anyone who has outright stopped listening to them because he was actively throwing his support behind his political candidate of choice in Canada's most recent national election.

Music and politics have long been tied together. I know people who have gone out and bought this latest Dixie Chicks CD who never ever EVER have bought a country album, and I bet they will never actually listen to it lest a mandolin infect their techno-infused ears... but they bought to support a political opinion that they agree with. And good for them if that's how they feel. It is kind of like making a donation to your favorite charity or cause. Putting your money where your opinion is.

And in the end, that may be all that matters. Natalie may get that group of people who are "real" fans instead of the country cousins buy anything with a fiddle that is pushed at them by Clear Channel type.

She may get that core, quality group of likeminded individuals who will follow her and her career through its peaks and valleys, not just the hits and chart-toppers. I wish them the best with that. I truly have enjoyed their music over the years, appreciate their talent in a world where no one plays their own damn instruments or writes their own songs. Where a face and a haircut and a pair of jeans make the star instead of true talent. I have to give them praise for being one of the most talented country acts out there today, and not just some pre-packaged hacks.

Anyway -- I'm late getting to work. Must run. I just really wanted to get this written there, down on the screen, and out into the ether before I forgot all the things I wanted to say.

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