By Jonathan Millen
I hate country music. I always have hated country music. I always have enjoyed hating country music. Only now I don’t hate it so much any more. In fact, upon closer inspection, I really never did hate it at all. Consider the evidence:
My first album ever was John Denver’s Greatest Hits, a birthday present in the sixth grade along with the denim covered portable record player I played it on. Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine On My Shoulders, Take Me Home Country Roads – all classics. Though I never thought of them as country songs. A few years later I developed a taste for southern rock classics including the Charlie Daniels Band (The Legend of Wooley Swamp is a must listen!) and the Marshall Tucker Band (Can’t You See). Next I went forwards by moving backwards to Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. I had always considered them all to be classic rock, but in reality, the music is as much country as anything else.
The ones that I did identify as country songs were the exceptions: Aimee (Pure Prairie League), The Gambler (Kenny Rogers), and Friends In Low Places (Garth Brooks). But then I realized that the lines were a bit more blurry. Dylan did Lay Lady Lay, The Stones did Dead Flowers, and The Beatles had done a cover of Carl Perkins’ Honey Don’t. And before I could reconcile those songs, I looked at my current playlist more closely and discovered that I am a big fan of alt-country: Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams, the Jayhawks, and Wilco. I suppose I felt that it was OK because of the alt alt-country.
But the clincher came just the other night. My daughter (aged 14) announced that she had chosen the song we would dance to on her wedding night: Heartland’s version of I Loved Her First. I had never heard the song before and it is filled with clichés, but it was the sweetest thing I had ever listened to in my life. My response: I played Stupid Boy for her by Keith Urban. The fact that I knew it by name and artist came as a complete shock to me. For the next hour we played country songs for each other finding more similar tastes in music than ever before.
A few years ago we had reached an agreement that I regretted from the moment it was settled: When it is just the two of us in the car, she gets control of the radio. Bieber, Rhianna, BoB – pure torture! But now we have found a new common ground in country music. And regardless of all the exceptions and rationalizations I have been making over the years, the new pleasure I have discovered in listening to music with Hannah has made me a country fan for life. Or at least until she gets her license.
Dr. Jonathan Millen is the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts