My passion for country music goes back many years ago, when my father was still alive, when Jim Reeves was all the rage in Kampala, long before i knew the way back home. Now, just a few hours after i saw a Larry King special on country music, i realize that i still haven't grown up: I love country music as much as i did when i first heard "Danny Boy" as the curious son a country fanatic.
As a grown man, my collection features such icons as Kenny Rogers, Rodney Crowell, Sweethearts of the Rodeo and Tim McGraw -- artistes whose music has since been poisoned by funky variants and, even more painful, knocked out by cultural currents on both sides of the Atlantic. The charge that my taste in music is outdated and uncool is probably fair, but the idea that music made in Nashville is crazy is one i am unkindly disposed to.
I've been told that country music has long been associated with the vanity of southern white males, especially those who have little or no interaction with blacks. In that regard, country has subliminally been known as the music of white racists, even if most country songs treat the whole gamut of every-day subjects far removed from the friction between black, white and everything that falls between. As i have discovered, the allegation is long on perception and short on fact; the connection is tenuous, and the oxymoronic equation is akin to some white people pigeonholing hip-hop as the language of tomorrow's criminals. It doesn't fly.
While my music collection has become eclectic in recent times, only country music ever manages to let me "confess like a child." Many country records out there were intended to speak to the unintelligent, but i am lucky to have known country songs that are as spiritual as they are enlightening. Sean Hannity, the FOX News commentator whose views i rarely agree with, said in a recent edition of his daily show that he loved country music because it's "about real people, real ideas." I agreed reluctantly, in large part because he was making a deliberate attempt to link country music to the ideals of the GOP in a virulent examination of the Obama administration. I would feel much better if the claim is made by, say, Colin Powell.
It's true that i am bothered by the constant risk of having to explain how it came to be that a black man from Africa so loves country music. And it's also true that i don't own a pair of cowboy boots or a fedora or tight-fitting jeans. But guess what: I am going to Nashville.