As my friend David puts it in response to Wavves’ idiotic Alabama dissing, “Why must Southerners be judged solely by our hateful white people?” It’s a pretty good question. Listen, I’m a life-long Southerner. We have lots of problems with race and crazy conservatism and all sorts of wacky stuff down here. But we’re not all bad, and we’ve certainly contributed to the cultural legacy of this country (New Orleans, anyone?). And you can’t just use Alabama as a shorthand for racism when it exists all over the country (and the planet). There are rednecks everywhere, man. I thought I would put together a list for Wavves et al. that might disabuse him of the notion that we’re all racists (not hard, considering many people on this list are African-Americans!). I kept it solely to musicians, but I could have included Booker T. Washington and Helen Keller and many more. Here goes (in no particular order…off the top of my head w/ the help of Wikipedia):
Nat King Cole
The Commodores/Lionel Richie
The Louvin Brothers
The Muscles Shoals rhythm section
Hank Williams, Sr.
Sun Ra (I had no idea, actually)
The Temptations (four members: Eddie Kendricks, Dennis Edwards, Paul Williams, and Melvin Franklin…I also had no idea about this!)
Jimmy Buffett (!)
I’m sure I’m leaving out tons of folks here. Anyway, I’ve got to stick up for my home state. We have a complicated and often depressing history filled with racial strife and struggle. The book hasn’t closed on racism, and I’ll be the first to admit. However, I ask that you judge us as much by these exemplars who have contributed so much (well, maybe not the last 2-3) to the musical fabric of this country (and others!). And if I started to bring the rest of the South in here…well, it’d almost be unfair. Heck, I’d take the Pepsi Challenge of Georgia or Mississippi up against almost any state. Actually, this might be pretty fun. Who wants to see a 50 states musical tournament?