Growing up, I couldn’t stand country music. It, and Elvis, was all my parents listened to on their great big eight-track, phonograph, AM radio equipped stereo that looked more like a piece of furniture than a music system. I vowed from an early age to never listen to country music when I grew up. The twangy, sad-sack songs just rubbed me the wrong way. Country music just wasn’t cool in my elementary school either so it would have made me some kind of a weirdo and who wants that. When I got to high school, one of my best friends tried to persuade me to give country a try again. He loved the classic storytellers like Johnny Cash, George Strait, and Glen Campbell. He was fighting a losing battle because we grew up in the heyday of rock legends like AC/DC, Van Halen, Rush and Pink Floyd that merged into the genesis of synth rock from the UK like The Fixx, Devo, Duran Duran and the emergence of new legends like Prince and U2. Needless to say, he lost the battle.
I did think I had a very liberal and eclectic taste in music despite my loathing of one specific genre. Spending a healthy amount of time overseas exposed me to musical stylings I’d never heard in the states and radio stations that played Boston, Beethoven, B-52s and Bella Fleck back to back to back. I thought I was pretty progressive in my tastes compared to some other knuckleheads who only listened to one specific type of music–often country.
Then I had one of those moments that change things. When my dad passed, I spent a fair amount of time at home making arrangements and taking care of family and the house. At one point, my mom and I decided to head up north to the little plot of land they owned where my dad would go hunting every fall. We also decided to take his truck for the three hour drive. When I started the truck up, naturally country music was on the radio. I groaned inside at first and then decided to leave the station tuned where it was and listen to the music my dad liked so much. The first full song I heard was Love’s the Only House by Martina McBride. She started changing my mind, but only a teeny tiny bit…enough to buy the CD.
Over the next couple years, I spent most of my music listening time focused on Christian bands because we freaked out when our kids started singing Brittany Spears lyrics by heart. That’s enough to scare any parent straight isn’t it? Anyway, I still avoided country and stuck with the stuff that made me jump around like an idiot so I could embarrass my kids at concerts. Then my kids began to influence my musical tastes subtly and significantly.
Both girls listened to a LOT of country and over time, I’ve come to make it my primary listening material (except when I’m at the gym.) I’ve come to appreciate my high school friend’s opinion that country is the poetry of the music world. There are some goofball, party-it-up songs that just make you smile or feel good, but the majority of songs tell a story. It’s not always a happy story, but that’s okay too. Life isn’t always a happy story. We just need to find the right DJ to play the right mix to keep us on the right path so that we meet the right people and do the right thing.