Country Music Reincarnated

1 Oct

The Highwaymen came up on my iPod. That was an 80s country super group consisting of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. In the 80s, each of them were legends. Now, they are icons. When they first recorded together, there wasn’t a name for the group. Then, “The Highwayman“, one of their first songs, went to Number One.The Highwaymen

That was the song that came up on my iPod. I hadn’t heard it in a while, but the words were still familiar enough for me to remember. As the song played and I sang along, I began to think about its subject matter – reincarnation. Then, I realized that there was once another hit country song about a reincarnation-like theme. That was “El Paso City” by Marty Robbins. It went to Number One in the 70s.El Paso City

These were two songs by major artists that tackled a controversial subject matter. Did the listeners who turned them into hits realize what they were about? If yes, then did they even care? These questions went through my mind along with another one. Would these songs make it to the radio in today’s market?

For a couple of reasons, I think the answer is no.

In the past decade, mainstream country music has attached itself to right-wing conservatism. That means that a great deal of its target audience is of the Christian faith, and, obviously, reincarnation does not fit within that belief. However, I would think that Christians also listened to country music in the 70s and 80s and probably bought the records by The Highwaymen and Marty Robbins. What is different now? Has there been an awakening of religion in the past decade? Were country music listeners in the 70s and 80s less religious than today? No matter the answers, country labels are scared to test the waters.

There is another reason these songs would not make it on today’s radio. They are not about pickup trucks; John Deere tractors; girls in sundresses; drinking beer on a back road; or anything else that is stereotypically country or southern. Obviously, these songs sell, but they all sound the same and are sung by people who sound just as similar. By the way, they kind of look alike, too.

The older songs are about deep, if controversial, subjects written by talented tunesmiths who were able to take such a subject and make an entertaining song that is also thought-provoking. They were also sung by talented artists who did not have to cover themselves in pyrotechnics and voice enhancements. Marty Robbins and The Highwaymen may not have all been great singers, but they were great artists.

Today, labels are afraid to push someone who does not fit the formula of looks and sound that form a cookie cutter industry. If that had been the case in the past decades, then Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash would have never gotten into the front door. Now that I write that, they almost didn’t, and that would have been a shame.

That’s it for my critique of the evolution of country music. Now, on to the next part of this post.

I do not believe in reincarnation. It always seemed silly to me to think that our souls jump from generation to generation. On top of that, people who claim to be reincarnated always say that they used to be someone famous or adventurous. I have never seen someone on television who claimed to have been some guy who dug ditches for a living.

With that in mind, I did a little Google experiment. If reincarnation were true, then it would make sense that a soul would jump as quickly as possible. I Googled my birthday to see who died on that day and started a fake reincarnation chain. Here it is:

In the last life, I was Upton Sinclair. That’s a pretty famous person.

Before that, I could have been Henry James Montague, a British actor.

Then, it gets back to America with Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism

Another jump across the pond brings me to Pehr Osbeck, a Swedish explorer.

It’s Sir Christopher Wren. Hey, he’s pretty smart.

That brings me to Kutsuki Mototsuna, a Japanese samurai commander.

Pope Paul III pops up. It’s good to be pope.

Johannes Gutenberg! Man, this list is filled with some influential people.

Here comes Acamapichtli, Aztec ruler. Things might have been different if he was around when Hernan Cortes showed up.

That’s as far as the chain goes. There’s no way of knowing what happened before that. Google went into overload. I suppose it’s a good place to stop this critique of country music and reincarnation.

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11 Responses to “Country Music Reincarnated”

  1. satanicpanic October 1, 2013 at 04:12 #

    My dad owns that record but I hadn’t heard it for probably 20 years. My friend and I put it on the jukebox on a lark and were kind of blown away to the extent that it became a regular one we’d put on. It’s just so majestic and it touches on so many great things- working man’s lives, loneliness, the desire to wander. It’s even got some science fiction in it. It does take the perspective of someone who gets reborn over and over as pretty much an average guy, which, like you’re saying, is pretty unique for something reincarnation themed. I guess until he becomes a starship pilot. But the song suggests he might go back to being a single drop of rain. It’s definitely not your average country tune.

    • Rick October 1, 2013 at 18:48 #

      I didn’t realize until this post that it was written by Jimmy Webb. He had a bunch of hits like “By the Time I get to Phoenix”; “Wichita Lineman”; and “MacArthur Park”. All of those are great stories.

  2. Rick April 22, 2015 at 19:07 #

    Reblogged this on Surrounded By Imbeciles and commented:

    I just found an interesting article on slate.com. They have created a Reincarnation Machine to determine who you were in past lives. All you have to do is type in your birthdate. However, it is not a new idea because I thought of it a long time ago. Instead of letting them have all of the glory, I have reblogged the post where this idea originated.

  3. Kentucky Angel April 23, 2015 at 04:06 #

    This is great Rick. I had that album, and was in love with all of the guys on it, especially Kristofferson. As for Marty Robbins, I met him waaaay back in his glory days when the gunfighter songs were doing so well. He was a race car driver, and my uncle owned a race track–some kind of mini cars, and I worked the concession stand. A really nice, all around good person who made a silly teenager feel good about herself.

    • Rick April 23, 2015 at 04:14 #

      That’s really cool that you met Marty Robbins. My dad has always talked about “a white sport coat and a pink carnation.” He use to wear it out when I was a kid.

      • Kentucky Angel April 23, 2015 at 04:51 #

        Ah, yes, that was what every cool guy wore to the prom. I still love that song. Not sure I ever want to see anyone in a white sport coat with a pink carnation again though.

  4. jcalberta April 23, 2015 at 17:43 #

    We’ve been around a while. A LOOOOOOOONG while. We’ve been Kings and bums, Cowboys and Indians, Slaves and Masters ….
    I remember plenty of my past lives. Funny thing is that when that when I started to recall them I didn’t believe or care about past lives. But they showed me why and how some things that were affecting me in this life and some things i need to work on.
    Like that music. Been listening to both Robbins and the Highwaymen recently.
    I think you are right about the music these days. It’s in the doldrums for the most part. It was our great fortune however, to live during a Renaissance era – a rare event. It’s not today’s people’s fault that we are not there anymore. A few rare individuals are undoubtedly doing some good work – but that rarely hits the ‘charts’. You gotta search for it.

    • Rick April 23, 2015 at 17:53 #

      Country music needs to be about more than just pickup trucks, beer and girls in sundresses.

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