Arkansas is a strange little state and my home. We constantly rank in the top five for bad things like obesity, teen pregnancy, high school drop outs, poor health care, and poverty. Any outsider might think we were a lowly and pathetic place. What they don’t know about Arkansas is it is an absolutely gorgeous and lush state, it’s also a ridiculously friendly place. Though poor, Arkansas is, per capita, one of the most generous states in America.
But it’s the musical side of Arkansas that always strikes me as most remarkable. We have a population of less than 3 million still the list of famous musicians, singers and songwriters is so stunning. This morning I spent an hour doing research (something you know I rarely do, generally my big fat opinion is enough for me). I made a list of the musicians I like who came from my lovely emerald green state.
The List: Sonny Burgess, Howlin’ Wolf, Al Bell, James Cotton, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Driftwood (he wrote Tennessee Stud and The Battle of New Orleans because he was a high school teacher and he wanted to help his students understand a history class),Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunn, Lefty Frizzell (He wrote If You’ve Got the Money Honey, I’ve Got the Time),Randy Goodrum, Al Green (who is in my top five for favorite singers of all time, just ask my kids),Ronnie Hawkins, Levon Helm, Scott Joplin the King of Ragtime, Louis Jordan (a contemporary of Louis Armstrong but dirtier and a lot blacker. Beans and Cornbread, Choo Choo Boogie, He had something like 14 number one hits),Buddy Jewel, Albert King, Tracy Lawrence, Joe Nichols, Charlie Rich aka the Silver Fox, Sister Rosetta Tharp( she influenced everyone in rock and roll including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and fellow Arkansan Johnny Cash)Conway Twitty (super sleazy legendary country singer),Sonny Boy Williamson, Justin Moore, and R&B icon Ne-Yo. And of course TI did prison time right here in Arkansas. The list would have been much longer if I’d included jazz and opera stars.
I looked at other states with close to 3 million residents and they didn’t have near the musical star power and history of Arkansas. Kansas can brag about Charlie Parker, Joe Walsh and Melissa Ethridge, but that’s about it. Then there’s Utah and Nevada, both with embarrassingly shallow musical benches.
So, what is it about Arkansas? Maybe it’s the poverty that inspired so many of our country and blues greats. Perhaps the lack of educational opportunities gave the trifling young men and women time to hone their craft. One observation I couldn’t ignore. Most of the great musicians came from the uglier parts of the state. Maybe they were all just looking for a way out of this beautiful, friendly but often times impoverished state.
In less than ten years there’s another band of Arkansas players who will make my list and yours too. The Natural Outlaws. Big fat fun abrasive southern rock.
Play on boys.
Tags: Al Bell, Al Green, Arkansas, glen campbell, Johnny Cash, music
I know it seems as though really creepy sexy songs just arrived on the musical scene but freaky lyrics have been around since the advent of rock and roll, actually it started with the blues. And by comparison, Lady GaGa’s “I want to take a ride on your disco stick” is pretty mundane.
But wait, there were lots of dirty lyrics before the Knack. My bedroom nearly exploded when Rod Stewart came out with, Tonights The Night… he actually sang, “C’mon angel my hearts on fire Don’t deny your man’s desire You’d be a fool to stop this tide. Spread your wings and let me come inside“. It’s no wonder my parents nearly had seizures when I sang along with that one.
Ok, Marcy’s Playground just about hit it out of the creepy song park a few years ago with “I Smell Sex and Candy,” but what about George Michael’s I Will Be Your Father Figure, “put your tiny hand in mine, I will be your father figure, anything you have in mind.” How old is this kid with the tiny hand? “Just for one moment to be warm and naked by my side“. That one always made me feel slimy.
I’m not defending the guys who wrote “Smack That” but rap and hip hop didn’t start this overtly sexual musical revolution.
How about Chuck Berry’s My Ding-a Ling,”Then mama took me to Sunday school. They tried to teach me the Golden Rule. But when the choir would stand and sing. I’d sit there and play with my Ding-a-ling-a-ling”. I listened to that one on AM radio. And Chuck was always the thirty five year old man singing Sweet Little Sixteen to screaming little girls. Humm, in retrospect that seems kind of weird.
So, quite picking on Lady GaGa and her Love Game and all those hip hop guys I can’t name. You know you were singing along when Warrent sang She’s My Cherry Pie…
Swingin’ in the living room
Swingin’ in the kitchen
Most folks don’t ’cause
They’re too busy bitchin’
Swingin’ in there ’cause
She wanted me to feed her
So I mixed up the batter
And she licked the beater
Tags: kids, lady gaga, music, parenting