Would country singer Tammy Wynette have considered her hit song "Stand By Your Man" conservative or liberal?
An earlier posting of mine from a couple of weeks ago went on and on about my love of music, and how I've been putting together mixes for more than 25 years. That fact usually impresses a lot of people, until I tell them that they are all on cassette tapes. More often than not, at that point, people make excuses to leave the conversation... something about having to take care of a sick aunt, or that they have to repair their eight-track player. It's sad and depressing but I get used to it.
Anyway, a colleague — probably feeling sorry for me — sent me an article from the National Review, the conservative magazine founded in the 1800s by William F. Buckley, Jr. The article is by NR political reporter John Miller, who decided to list the 50 greatest conservative rock songs of all time. Some of them you wouldn't expect to find on a rightwing list of music in a million years, but Miller explains why they are there. For example, if you're wondering why the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" is included, Miller has an answer: "Don't be misled by the title... the devil is a tempter who leans hard on moral relativism — he will try to make you think that 'every cop is a criminal / And all the sinners saints.'" As for the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," it's "pro-abstinence and pro-marriage" (as in, "We could be married / And then we'd be happy"). Sure, but what about The Sex Pistols' "Bodies?" Miller concedes it's "violent and vulgar," but it's also a "searing anti-abortion anthem."
Great, fun stuff. But then, that got me thinking (always a dangerous thing). In looking at the titles of the songs, one could easily make the case that they should NOT be on a conservative best-music list. In fact, they can be billed as straight out of the vast left-wing conspiracy!! For example:
"Won't Get Fooled Again" — Miller calls it a "classic for conservatives." But couldn't this be the 2006 theme song for Republican voters fed up with all the scandals and big spending bills that are coming out of the GOP Congress?
"Taxman" — Miller says it's a "humorous jab at death taxes." All I could think of was George H.W. Bush and his 1990 reversal on "read my lips."
"Gloria" by U2. Miller likes this because it's a "rock song about faith... whose chorus is in Latin." He sees it as "beautifully reactionary." Maybe, but every Gloria I can think of is a liberal. Gloria Molina, the Democratic supervisor from Los Angeles. Gloria Steinem, the liberal feminist. Gloria Allred, the liberal feminist attorney. Gloria Schaffer, the liberal Democrat who ran for the Senate from Connecticut in 1976. And don't forget Gloria Vanderbilt. I don't know her politics, but she gave us Anderson Cooper, for gosh sakes. Hey, and didn't Springsteen — that big John Kerry supporter — sing about "Gloria Days?"
"The Trees" by Rush. Miller says that "before there was Rush Limbaugh, there was Rush, a Canadian band whose lyrics are often libertarian." I dunno. When I think of "trees," I think of those wacky environmental extremists.
"My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders. Miller likes that the bass line "supplies the theme music for Limbaugh's radio show." I see it as the joint theme song for Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans.
"I Fought the Law" by the Crickets. Miller's take: "The original law-and-order classic." Mixed Signals take: See Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, et al.
"Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by the Georgia Satellites. Miller says the lyrics "affirm old-time sexual mores." Maybe so, but when I hear it, Pee Wee Herman comes to mind.
"Stand By Your Man" by Tammy Wynette. Miller likes the fact that Hillary Clinton "trashed it." But couldn't this also be the theme song for some people who are pushing for same-sex marriages?
I rest my case.