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Old-style country music was a world of gothic wit

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Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe
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Lynne D. Schwabe was owner of Schwabe-May of Charleston, ran her own marketing consulting firm and is a nationally recognized motivational speaker. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Women's Wear Daily, and has appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch. She is now director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at schwabestatejournal@gmail.com.

Pat Conroy's mother, a great Southern lady, said this sentence summed up all of Southern Gothic literature: "On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to Sister." That's just purely beautiful.

Country music has some of this gothic charm. In the olden days, it was all rough and rowdy and about killin' a man jist to watch him die. This country music needed a shot of Jack before noon. Country music today has lost some of this gothic quality, currently chronicling the heartache and sorrow of minivan-mom angst. However, the names of country music songs are still vastly entertaining, in most cases far more entertaining than listening to the music itsownself. I admire brains that can originate titles like:

 

  • "Her Teeth Were Stained but Her Heart was Pure"
  • "How Can I Miss You if You Don't Go Away?"
  • "I Changed Her Oil, She Changed my Life"
  • "I'm the Only Hell Mama Ever Raised"
  • "If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?"
  • "If the Phone Don't Ring, You'll know It's Me"
  • "I've Been Roped and Thrown by Jesus in the Holy Ghost Corral"
  • "My Give-a-Damn's Busted"
  • "Corn Star"
  • "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"
  • "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy"
  • "I Just Can't Get Over How You've Gotten Over Me"
  • "Am I Double Parked by the Curbstone of Your Heart?"
  • "If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I'd Blow it all on You"
  • "I Went Back to My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to Make a First Class Fool out of me."

 

I keep waiting for technology to enter the realm of country, knowing as I do that no one is out plowing the back 40 no more; they are all inside trying to get dates on line. So far, this line of thought hasn't shown up on the country music charts. I would listen to songs like:

 

  • "I'm Much Cooler On Line"
  • "Ping Me"
  • "Go Check Out MySpace"
  • "Text Me, Please

 

Breach My Firewall: Let's Get Closer Together."

Although country music has been losing listeners, there is ample evidence that someone is listening and listening a lot. The "Gangnam Style" Youtube video has gotten more than a billion hits. That's billion with a "B." I don't know if this qualifies as country, but I don't know what else to call it. I was stunned to learn that there is a raging debate over whether Taylor Swift is a country music singer or not. Who knew? Who cares?

There was a huge flap recently when Brad Paisley released a song about gay marriage and news commentators blathered on endlessly actually trying to interpret the song's lyrics. Justin Bieber attracts press wherever he goes and no matter what he is doing, and it's certainly not because of his attire.

Then there was the West Virginia lass, working in a Walmart in Logan, who sang to her customers. Someone discovered her, whisked her off to the Grand Ole Opry, where she performed country music to some acclaim. I hope she's a millionaire by now.

As I was poking around the Internet, examining the country music phenom, I admit I was delighted to read that the most popular song for Christmas 2012 was Little Miss Dynamite's — Brenda Lee — "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," which was recorded in 1958.  Brenda Lee was no bigger than a minute, had a huge voice, which squeaked charmingly, and I thought she was the essence of cool. 

And, because people aren't listening to country music so much anymore because they think it's not "cool," perhaps Brenda Lee will stage a comeback. It would be refreshing. And just maybe, country music will return to its roots and lament Grandma wandering off in a snowstorm and the family getting drunk and Brother being run over by heavy machinery right after meeting his own true love and unmarried Sister getting pregnant and Daddy opening up a can of whup-ass on the erstwhile father. Now, that's poetry!