conservative indie pop? liberal country western? election season blues…

It seems to me that there’s money to be made for some young, enterprising, conservative musician. There aren’t really any conservative indie/alternative bands, but there are plenty of conservatives who like that kind of music. Can you imagine how they’d rally around a band who was outwardly conservative. And if Rush Limbaugh told his listeners about that band? They’d be millionaires overnight.

Same, though less so, for a liberal country band. By the nature of the art form, there are more liberal musicians, in general, than conservative. But country still doesn’t have too many successful liberal acts (minus the Dixie Chicks, of course). I would imagine there’s a similarly good opportunity for a good liberal country band to come out and take that genre by storm.

So? Why hasn’t anyone seized on these opportunities?

I started doing a little looking, and I came across an article by John Miller written for National Review. He offered up his top 50 conservative rock songs. Surprisingly, there were quite a few songs by real indie bands on the list. That doesn’t mean they were/are conservative bands. But the songs (by virtue of being libertarian, actually) are arguably conservative. Here’s his list of top 50 (there are 50 more, if you want to check those out, too).

[If you want detailed justifications for each, click through to the entire articles above…]

1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who.
2. “Taxman,” by The Beatles.
3. “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones.
4. “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
5. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys.
6. “Gloria,” by U2.
7. “Revolution,” by The Beatles.
8. “Bodies,” by The Sex Pistols.
9. “Don’t Tread on Me,” by Metallica.
10. “20th Century Man,” by The Kinks.
11. “The Trees,” by Rush.
12. “Neighborhood Bully,” by Bob Dylan.
13. “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders.
14. “Right Here, Right Now,” by Jesus Jones.
15. “I Fought the Law,” by The Crickets.
16. “Get Over It,” by The Eagles.
17. “Stay Together for the Kids,” by Blink 182.
18. “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour.
19. “Kicks,” by Paul Revere and the Raiders.
20. “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash.
21. “Heroes,” by David Bowie.
22. “Red Barchetta,” by Rush.
23. “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five.
24. “Der Kommissar,” by After the Fire.
25. “The Battle of Evermore,” by Led Zeppelin.
26. “Capitalism,” by Oingo Boingo.
27. “Obvious Song,” by Joe Jackson.
28. “Janie’s Got a Gun,” by Aerosmith.
29. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Iron Maiden.
30. “You Can’t Be Too Strong,” by Graham Parker.
31. “Small Town,” by John Mellencamp.
32. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by The Georgia Satellites.
33. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by The Rolling Stones.
34. “Godzilla,” by Blue öyster Cult.
35. “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
36. “Government Cheese,” by The Rainmakers.
37. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” by The Band.
38. “I Can’t Drive 55,” by Sammy Hagar.
39. “Property Line,” by The Marshall Tucker Band.
40. “Wake Up Little Susie,” by The Everly Brothers.
41. “The Icicle Melts,” by The Cranberries.
42. “Everybody’s a Victim,” by The Proclaimers.
43. “Wonderful,” by Everclear.
44. “Two Sisters,” by The Kinks.
45. “Taxman, Mr. Thief,” by Cheap Trick.
46. “Wind of Change,” by The Scorpions.
47. “One,” by Creed.
48. “Why Don’t You Get a Job,” by The Offspring.
49. “Abortion,” by Kid Rock.
50. “Stand By Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette.

Eric Kirk at SoHum Parlance saw this article and decided (with some incentive from Miller) to take on the task of finding the top 50 liberal country songs. Here’s his list below (follow this link to see the justifications)…

1. Man in Black – Johnny Cash
2. The Pill – Loretta Lynn
3. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
4. We Shall be Free – Garth Brooks
5. Harper Valley PTA – Jeannie Riley (and others)
6. Take this Job and Shove It – Johnny Paycheck
7. Devil’s Right Hand – Steve Earle
8. Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Earnest Ford
9. Rainbow Stew – Merle Haggard
10. Trouble in the Fields – Nancy Griffith
11. Abraham, Martin, and John (It’s a Hard Life) – Emmy Lou Harris
12. They Ain’t Makin Jews like Jesus Anymore – Kinky Friedman
13. San Quentin – Johnny Cash
14. America – Waylon Jennings
15. Heartland – Willie Nelson
16. Jesus, the Missing Years – John Prine
17. Okie from Muskogee – Merle Haggard
18. Conversations with the Devil – Ray Wylie Hubbard
19. Travelin’ Soldier – Dixie Chicks
20. 40 hour week – Alabama
21. My Uncle – Flying Burrito Brothers
22. Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn
23. Ballad for a soldier – Leon Russell, aka Hank Wilson
24. Fishing – Richard Shindell
25. I Washed my Face in the Morning Dew – Tom T. Hall
26. One Hundred Children – Tom T. Hall
27. Aragon Mill – Dry Branch Fire Squads
28. Workin Band – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
29. Right or Left at Oak Street – Roy Clark
30. Two Story House – Tammy Wynette
31. Church – Lyle Lovett
32. Devil Take the Farmer – Dry Branch Fire Squads
33. Blame it on the Stones – Kris Kristofferson
34. Skip a Rope – Henson Cargill
35. That’s the News – Merle Haggard
36. A Week in Country Jail – Tom T. Hall
37. Common Man – John Conlee
38. Kids of the Baby Boom – The Bellamy Brothers
39. Mississipi on my Mind – Jesse Winchester written, Jerry Jeff Walker performance
40. Hank Williams Said It Best – Guy Clark
41. Billy B. Damned – Billy Joe Shaver
42. Don’t you think this outlaw bit’s done got out of hand?- Waylon Jennings
43. Lights went out in Georgia – Reba McEntire
44. Peace on Earth – Willie Nelson
45. High Cotton – Alabama
46. Why can’t we all just get a long neck? – Hank Williams
47. White House Blues – Vassar Clements
48. Saginaw, Michigan – Lefty Frizzell
49. Copperhead Road – Steve Earle
50. Hobo’s Meditation – Dolly Parton

In most of the cases in the rock section, the songs are written by artists who are generally liberal, but have swerved into the conservative side of an issue. The country side largely includes artists who are generally liberal.

Thus, my curiosity still stands: Could a “good” indie/alternative band who was conservative gather a critical mass of fans? I think it goes deeper than that. I think the question really is “do people like songs because of the lyrics, melody, instrumentation, vocals, etc. (obviously, “all of the above” is an option, too)?

Can you love a song which endorses a philosophy to which you are vehemently opposed?


5 Responses to “conservative indie pop? liberal country western? election season blues…”

  1. August 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Both of those lists are bizarre. Red Barchetta? That’s a song about a car (at least according to Geddy Lee, who I once saw introduce it, in his Geddy Lee screech, as follows: “THIS IS A SONG ABOUT A CAR!”). The Battle of Evermore? Isn’t that about the Lord of the Rings? And he’s just flat wrong about Sweet Home Alabama, which is a bit of well-known satire (well — half-satire, maybe. Not to mention that Skynyrd was supposedly good buddies with Neil Young, and who the hell has ever met an arrogant Canadian anyway?). I wouldn’t necessarily put any political bent on a lot of those songs, actually. Miller’s explanations are either very simplistic or are reading a lot into one or two lines. (Exception: “Get Over It” by the Eagles, one of the stupidest, most clumsily written songs in the history of pop music.) For example, in Keep Your Hands to Yourself, I’d venture to say that our hero is less than pleased about the no-huggy-no-kissy. I don’t believe I would call that “endorsing a conservative philosophy.”

    You say most indie bands are liberal (and they probably are) and most country bands are conservative (and they probably are, too, but not necessarily to the extreme that a lot of people think — with the obvious exceptions of, say, your Charlie Daniels or your Toby Keith, who is a big pothead by the way), but I think that in their work, despite their reputations and their true political ideology, most artists and musicians are generally, at least in this list, just trying to tell about the human (or Hobbit) condition without necessarily bringing politics into it at all. Steve Earle is a self-described “borderline Marxist,” but even then I wouldn’t call Copperhead Road one of his more liberal songs. It’s just telling a story without really making much of a judgment or argument one way or another at all. Most of these songs may just naturally fall to one side of the political spectrum or the other, and many probably fall to both sides within the same song, but I wouldn’t necessarily say they are endorsing a political philosophy. There are many exceptions, of course. But that’s what I like about music. That for the most part, it’s just there, it generally doesn’t judge, dualities exist within it, and it can often take you away from all this black/white, blue state/red state, everything-has-to-have-a-label-on-it crap for a while. As with pretty much everything, music is just naturally much more complex and nuanced than that. Except for “Get Over It.”

  2. 2 Jon
    August 13, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    I don’t think Miller’s point was that they are endorsing or promoting any ideology at all. I think he was referring to the sentiments in the song to which a liberal or conservative can identify.

    Although, to be sure, I think at least a few of them were hitting directly at the ideologues.


  3. August 13, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Ouch. That hurts, getting hit in the idealogues.

  4. 4 Griffin
    March 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Seeing Rock the Casbah on that list is a shame – American troops played it before going to the Gulf War, having misinterpreted the message/sarcasm…Joe Strummer said that he actually started crying when he heard that.

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