Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rock my world, little country duo

The major news in the world of country music this week is that Brooks & Dunn, the most successful Nashville duo of all time, will part ways next year. They've been together a long time. In fact, when Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn recorded their first album, the other big duo in America was Lewis and Clark.

With any luck at all, the legacy of Messrs. Brooks & Dunn will not be having over forty top ten singles, or putting out ten platinum albums, or winning a ton of awards. It won't be that they delighted horse lovers by having a bunch of them in videos like this one. (That's my favorite B&D song.)

No, hopefully the legacy of Brooks & Dunn will be that maybe other musicians will be inspired to show a little class when someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum uses one of their songs at a campaign rally, or samples a bit of it in a commercial. Last summer, when Barack Obama walked offstage at the Democratic National Convention, it was to the stirring strains of the Brooks & Dunn hit "Only in America." As the Rolling Stone reported at the time:

If it felt familiar when Brooks & Dunn’s “Only In America” played after Barack Obama’s acceptance speech last night, there was good reason: President George W. Bush used the same song four years ago when he was rallying against Democratic candidate John Kerry. Brooks & Dunn were big supporters of Bush, even playing W’s inauguration party back in 2001. So how does Kix Brooks feel about Obama’s use of the track? He wasn’t angry at Obama for using the song... Instead Brooks said, 'Seems ironic that the same song Bush used at the Republican Convention last election would be used by Obama and the Democrats now. Very flattering to know our song crossed parties and potentially inspires all Americans.'”

Well said, Kix, and by the way, I hope you'll keep up your gig with the syndicated radio program. He wasn't just blowing smoke with this comment, by the way, he and Ronnie Dunn have shown that they separate music from politics by having the very liberal Sheryl Crow perform with them on the single "Building Bridges."

Now contrast the gracious words of Mr. Brooks with the reaction of the Wilson Sisters, from the group Heart, when their song "Barracuda" was played as Sarah Palin left the stage at the Republican Convention:

"Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, core members of the band since the late 1970s, emailed a statement to the McCain/Palin campaign on Thursday afternoon, denying the Republican ticket use of their classic rocker, 'Barracuda,' as a theme for Vice Presidential nominee Palin. 'The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted that permission,' the statement read.It continued: 'We have asked the Republican campaign publicly not to use our music. We hope our wishes will be honored.' Yet 'Barracuda' blared again at the Republican National Convention Thursday night after McCain's acceptance speech. So Heart's Nancy Wilson called to vent, saying, 'I think it's completely unfair to be so misrepresented. I feel completely [expletive] over.' She and her sister Ann then emailed this exclusive statement to 'Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image.'"

I remember at the time there was an article--which I googled, but alas, could not find--where an attorney pointed out that since the Target Center pays a licensing fee to play music, blasting "Barracuda" over the loudspeakers at the GOP festivities is no different than if it was played at halftime of a basketball game at the venue. In other words, legally speaking, the Wilson Sisters had no legitimate beef with the Republicans.

But that's not the point. The point is Kix Brooks, who supported John McCain, did not snarl publicly that by using "Only in America" Barack Obama and the Democrats were misrepresenting him. He and Ronnie Dunn didn't use capital letters, or even lower case ones, to hiss that Obama did not represent them as American men. They didn't whine that the Democrats were bleeping them over.

Heart recorded a song called "Dog and Butterfly," but their reaction last summer was a lame dog and pony show. Let's hope that in the future more musicians act more like Brooks & Dunn than like Ann and Nancy Wilson. To have it be otherwise--well, as Kix and Ronnie's song says, "That Ain't No Way to Go."

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