Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History 2:6 – I’m Sorry, Country Music

It has been hard to keep up with all the releases of the podcasts.

We are at about the halfway point, so here is a quick recap:

It started out fun with a nice, smart lark of a podcast where we learned about golf and rich white guys but the next few weeks, the topics ranged from counterterrorism to racism to famines. It was all so sobering.


Gladwell lightens the mood somewhat this episode with some music, only decided to talk about some of the most heart-wrenching songs in country music.  He interviewed songwriter, Bobby Braddock who wrote a song called “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.

I had never heard it before but I have to admit there is something to this song that just tugs at your core.

Here is my takeaway from this podcast:

Country music, I owe you an apology.  I wrote you off.  My impressions of you came from TNN, He-Haw reruns and that line from the Blues Brothers: “Oh we got both kinds! We got country and western!”

I let myself believe this was all about a bunch of toothless, uneducated, barefoot, banjo playing, hillbilly, yokles who would love nothing better than to do a jig to the sweet sounds of “Foggy Moutain Breakdown”.  I was so wrong.



I thought your big stars- Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr. and Merle Haggard -all looked exactly the same and also all looked like The Macho Man Randy Savage…I still think they do…only now I realize they have stories to tell and lessons to teach.

I knew about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers but for all the wrong reasons.   I never heard Islands in the Sand- perhaps the greatest duet in the last 50 years.

I thought the Kris Kristopherson was a character from a book about gnomes.  I had no idea how big a star Roy Clark was and that he was a virtuoso to boot.

Garth Brooks and Shania Twain and those other polished country music stars scared me away for good.  I thought they were all just pop stars in cowboy hats and ostrich-skin boots.

It’s not like I don’t enjoy country music, I do.  Tennesee Ernie Ford and Johnny Cash came into my life when I was in my teens but nobody broke through and explained country music to me.  I had no context.  I would have liked “outlaw country” and anything up to the mid-70’s- with their helmet hair, long sideburns, suits and sequins in all the right places.   To this day, I cannot get enough of the pedal steel guitar.  If youtube had been around back then I would have watched hours of Merle Travis and Ernest Tubbs.  I think a cowboy hat and a three-piece suit looks great-especially with the pants tucked into the boots.

Gladwell compared the frank and wide-ranging subjects that country music seems uniquely equipped to deal with to the kind of conversations that only close-knit families can have. Country music can be raw, honest and even deep.

I completely misjudged you country music.  I’m sorry.

When we mock what we do not understand we are the ones who lose out.

P.S. A couple days ago, the country music world lost guitar hero:

and legend Glen Campbell.

We barely knew you.

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