A long time ago, when I was still updating this blog, I wrote about Dwight Yoakam and country music’s Southern California heritage. It was somewhat personal for me, because, like Yoakam, I’m an Appalachian transplant to Los Angeles. That post was more about culture and aesthetics, but lately I’ve been thinking about the effect that country music (which colors some of my earliest memories) has had on my political commitments. I don’t have a theory of ideological causation or anything systematic like that, nor do I mean that great country songs are just topical screeds about politics, but I thought it would be fun to draw up an impressionistic, arbitrary playlist of songs that pushed me, in some small way, to the political left. For all its endemic conservatism, the South has more left-populist seams than a lot of Americans realize.
No more than one song by any artist. Otherwise this would have twenty Merle Haggard joints. Also, I’m defining “country” somewhat broadly and arranging my choices at random. Suggest more songs in the comments if you want.
- Merle Haggard, “Workin’ Man Blues”
- Loretta Lynn, “Coal-Miner’s Daughter”
- Merle Travis, “Sixteen Tons”
- Johnny Cash, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes”
- The Carter Family, “No Depression in Heaven”
- Tammy Wynette, “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.”
- Uncle Tupelo, “No Depression”
- George Jones, “Finally Friday”
- Dolly Parton, “Daddy’s Workin’ Boots”
- Townes Van Zandt, “Don’t Let the Sunshine Fool Ya”
- Nat Stuckey, “Sun Comin’ Up”
- Johnny Paycheck, “Take This Job and Shove It”