Father and daughter connect with an appreciation for country music

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.

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Dr. Jonathan Millen is the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts

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