Friday, December 07, 2007

"But I shot myself in Reno . . . "

Country music mega-star Tim McGraw, sporting the fashion-suicide combo of cowboy hat-and-argyle sweater (originally found here)

Not to worry, reader(s); the title of this post is a jokey reference to this (hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan):

Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates. (Italics mine)
It's of course easy to turn this into a joke. In all seriousness, though, this indeed bears pondering: given country music's origin--or, at the very least, one of its main roots--in the blues, a genre not without its own recountings of social despairs of various sorts but which also manages to transcend them, what caused country music to not retain that transcendence? As someone who grew up in a country-music-listening household and who still loves that music from the late-'50s through the '60s and into the mid-'70s or so and whose mother to this day knows only two kinds of music, "country" and "western," this is worthy of pondering.

But not right now--and that brings me to the other reason for this post: Finals Week is y-cumen in and, as usual, I will have grading out the wazoo to take care of. So, I'll be away from "here" for the next week. Hank Williams (Sr., of course) famously sang, "I'll never get out of this world alive;" rest assured that I fully intend to make it out of Finals Week alive.

See you on the other side.


R. Sherman said...

I'm not sure I agree with the premise that CW fails to transcend the despairs of the age. Another obvious root for CW is the the mountain/hill music of Appalachia and the Ozarks, which is religious in nature, relying on God to assist in overcoming life's perils.

Of course, maybe the underlying study is BS, too.


John B. said...

Yeah to the possible-BS part. As to the rest of your comment, I personally think much country pays lip service to religion, and rarely as a source of strength. Just like you don't bad-mouth Mama, you don't bad-mouth the church. But not bad-mouthing it isn't the same as, you know, believing. Speaking for myself, I tend not to feel especially encouraged to soldier on after listening to more than a few Hank Sr. songs . . . much as I genuinely love his music. Perverse, I know, but there it is.

So: three guesses as to what I won't be listening to as I grade papers this weekend.

Sheila said...

I'm looking forward to your picking this back up after the paper harvst is done. Seriously.

In the meantime, would it be too obvious -- and too obnoxious -- to quote the lyrics to "the perfect country and western song" per David Allen Coe and Steve Goodman?

Pam said...

This is funny - a friend just sent me a link to the 10 most bizarre scientific papers and this was one of them (seems to be a link that is floating around) - the whole list was hilarious (in that 'someone actually delved into this sort of way').

As for country music, give me George Jones and a cold beer and a warm summer night - toss in a few mosquitos - and I'm pretty happy (and thankful, this won't drive me to suicidal thoughts! Only grants do that...) - but seriously, the comparison to blues is an interesting one. If I had to speculate (disclaimer: I've already been working on a grant focused on cetacean zoonotics for two hours this morning)) - could it have something to do in general between the family structure differences between the races? Am I making sense? There's a sense of isolation in country music that just doesn't resonant quite so loudly in the blues. (And I have no idea why I think this: if asked to support this hypothesis, I'd perhaps fail miserably).

Anyway, good luck with the grading. My grant is due on Wednesday, I have my final exam (which is less exam-like and more 'proposal-like') on Thursday. I know few academics who enjoy this time of year!

Winston said...

Have a safe and "unforgetful" journey through the wilderness known as Finals Week... We'll keep the campfire going while you are away...