Dear Country Music

I love country music.

I grew up on it.  I loved listening to the radio in the evenings when Mama had it on while she was cooking supper.  When I was old enough I got a clock radio–oh y’all, it had real hands on it and you just had to kind of guess where to put the “alarm hand” to wake up at six or six-thirty.  It was precious.  (Yeah, we’ll go with that.)  I listened to the country music station–WDEN–when I sat and did my homework on my bed.  I loved the music, the words, and the DJ’s–there were some real characters on there for sure.  I remember the one weekend that JD North holed himself up in the control booth and played Hank Williams Jr’s “Family Tradition” over and over when he was trying to raise money for a charity.  It was a mess, but you couldn’t change the station because you never knew if this was the last time he would play it.  Ah, but no…..

Daddy especially enjoyed country music, but as the years went by, he complained about the demise of country music.  How the new artists weren’t singing real music–that they were turning to rock and roll and foul lyrics.  My Daddy preferred the songs of the older artists for the most part.  He used to put “Pancho and Lefty” on the record player and set it to play over and over and over.

He loved a good story.  Always.

Daddy also loved a good tune.  He really liked some of Lionel Richie’s songs, just because of the music.  He also liked Boy George’s “Karma Chameleon”–again the music.  Go figure.

But I digress.  I got to thinking about the state of country music the other day when a fairly new song came on the radio.  “Day Drinking” by Little Big Town.  I have been burning up my search engine because I really think I’ve heard this tune in a commercial or something, but maybe what happened is I’ve heard and liked the tune, but never listened to the words.

Dear Country Music,

Day Drinking?

Really?

I know y’all aren’t talking about a jug of sweet tea either.

I’ve tried to ignore the trend.  It’s been heading that way for a while.  Dierks Bentley’s “Tip It on Back”–I love the tune, I love the laid back feel, so I tried to pretend that you were suggesting I could tip on back my jug of water I tote around.  But then he came out with “Drunk on a Plane” and well, yeah, that one was a little hard to ignore.

This next one is hard for me.  I love me some Eric Church, but “A Cold One” is about regretting the ex-girlfriend taking one of his beers as she left.

Oh Eric, REALLY?

I’m starting to think you are all one or two short of a twelve-pack.

As I was writing this, I came across an article “Does Country Music Need an Alcohol Intervention?” which served to validate what I’d been noticing.

There’s a whole lot of drinking and partying going on in country music.

“The old guys were regretfully drunk,” says songwriter Adam Wright, whose current Lee Ann Womack single, “The Way I’m Livin’,” embodies the same attitude. “The new guys are proud to be drunk. There’s a little bit of a different spin.”

Exactly.

All of you out there writing the songs and then selling the songs and then recording the songs and then yes, choosing to play these songs–can you please do me one favor?

Can you pay attention to who is listening to your music?

Teens.

Young people.

People who need every bit of help they can get to figure out what being an adult looks like.  It’s not getting drunk and being proud of it.  Not for one minute.  No sir.  Being an adult doesn’t look like sitting around drinking coffee all the time (like in Friends) nor does it look like partying until you can’t remember anything the next day.

Being an adult is about making responsible choices.  Which is why I nearly laughed out loud at a high school graduation where the graduates were told they were adults now.  Hardly.  But we’ll save that for another night.

Country music, you had one of your finest moments when Mark Alan Springer and Shaye Smith wrote the song that Kenny Chesney recorded and released in 1998.  “That’s Why I’m Here.”  It’s a real picture of what can happen in real life as a result of all that partying and all that drinking.  I know this–I’ve watched it happen.

And I’m watching it again, country music.  My daughter has a friend who is drinking his life away.  At 18.  It might not happen now or in his 20’s or 30’s but how many do we have to lose to this disease in their 40’s and 50’s before someone stands up and says,  “Enough is enough.”

It’s time.

Enough is enough.

Please stop glamorizing drinking.  Please stop making it look like no fun can be had without a “Drink in My Hand.”  (Oh me, Eric Church–you do have some great songs out there, but this one…..oh me.)  It has a great tune, and I’ve watched my daughter’s friend belt this song out with a face full of joy–before he was drinking.  Y’all make it sound so fun.

And these kids don’t know any better.

Please.  Just.  Stop.

I love country music.  And my children do too.  But as my oldest watches friends and people she loves succumb to drinking and the poor judgment that comes with it, I’m considering shutting you out of my life.  I may be pulling out my Daddy’s record albums for more than just nostalgia if this doesn’t stop.  I don’t want my children to wind up like my daughter’s friend–at a get together and unable to relax and enjoy being with folks because he needs someone to bring his underage self a beer.

My heart breaks y’all.

It’s just too much.  When you’ve seen a life ruined and a person kill themselves with alcohol…..

It’s real.

Thank you country music for your time.  Please write and produce more songs with stories, really good stories, like you have in the past.  Not even about alcohol or drinking, but if it has to be about drinking, at least write ones that show the reality of it–like “That’s Why I’m Here,” “Whiskey Lullaby,” and Collin Raye’s “Little Rock.”   I know you have it in you.  Please show some responsibility.

Sincerely,

A Mama Who Has Three Precious Country Fans to Raise And Has Seen What Alcohol Can Really Do…..And It’s Not Fun

At All

 

 

 

 

finally

your voice comes back to us

recorded on paper, written, thought out

what you said, what you wished for

the dreams that never came to be

the life lost to the things that held onto you

and wouldn’t let go

demons, darkness, distractions

 

you once believed in all that could be

we must believe that ourselves and hold onto it

so many questions, the hope that you once dreamed

and believed they could happen

is all we have now

 

 

what happens in hearts that cannot be untangled–

who cannot break away from the grasp of the cold?

why must they be lost forever

until completely swallowed up by the worries and fears

that torment them deep inside

 

 

the happy smiles, the jovial laughs, we all want to hide behind the mask

never let anyone in to see the mess inside

oh if only we could have seen

if only you had let us in

 

 

denial, pride, fear, shame, pain

are not friends to the soul

they tear it apart and break it to the core

until there’s nothing left but a life lost

too soon, too much, too heartbreaking

 

 

wishing it were all a dream

and we could all have do-overs

a chance to go for it again, to run, to leap,

to soar

and to turn it all around

and stick the landing

 

 

but it seems

that is for movies of the week and fairy tales

when in truth we falter, we trip, we fall and cannot pick ourselves back up

all the while smiling with the mask we’ve made

Yes, I’m fine, all is well, just fine and dandy, and you?

 

 

in this life, there’s not always a second chance or third or fourth

and a faulty landing can earn us far worse than a low number on a scoreboard

or a bumpy ride down a runway

it can take us down

and out

 

 

I promise to try to look beyond the masks of others

and try to trust and not hide behind my own

 

 

if only we had ripped yours away, grabbed you by your shoulders,

looked you in the eyes

and said,

“I know”

“I understand”

“I want to hear your story” or

cried out, “I want to help!” and then

did something, anything to help you change your course

 

 

but we didn’t speak

and you didn’t trust

and now your voice is silent

except for what is written

beautiful words of dreams and plans and love and laughter

 

 

you planned a good life

and now, my friend, you have it

your journey is over, the tears you never let go are wiped away

peace be with you

finally

 

 

--from "Over When It's Over", Luke Laird/Eric Church

–from “Over When It’s Over,” Luke Laird/Eric Church