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Beast of the Month - June 2003
Darryl Worley, Country Music Singer
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
Listening to what country music serves up right now, it's hard to believe it once didn't suck.
No, really, there was a time when real outlaws like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson ruled the country scene. Not that this should be too surprising, as country has long had a populist outsider sound best exemplified by Hank Williams' plainitive wail. During the 90's, as Randy Travis, Clint Black and Garth Brooks took over, the Nashville scene became even bigger business. And though Brooks, the biggest of the big in sales, may not (as he acknowledges with admirable self-modesty) match Cash, Nelson and the gang in terms of talent - or, for that matter, Elvis, whose sales totals he compares to - there was still enough raw enthusiasm in his music and live shows to make his success deserved. Besides, he had the guts to tackle subjects like spouse abuse and homophobia in his songs, previously taboo in the country world.
Unfortunately, today's crop of male country singers makes you wish for the days of Billy Ray Cyrus. (Okay, maybe not.) It's little surprise then the leading lights of late have not been guys but crossover babes like Shania Twain, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks.
Speaking of the Dixie Chicks, they showed their own level of guts when singer Natalie Maines dared to badmouth Shrub during a concert in London. Granted, it was only one line (claiming shame that Bush was a Texan, though that is certainly a debatable term for the Andover Yalie) but it was a noted act of bravery nonetheless. While their albums and concerts did great after the deserved Dubya trashing (helped, no doubt, by their tasty cover shoot for Entertainment Weekly) their songs were blacklisted by Clear Channel radio stations (owned by former biz partners of lil' Bush) over the controversy. This, along with the cancellation of a 15th anniversary celebration of Bull Durham at the Baseball Hall of Fame over anti-war activism by stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon (the head of Cooperstown's HOF was a Reagan White House assistant press secretary) and the firing of a CBS Hitler miniseries producer for comparing Adolf to Shrub (that will get rid of those Hitler analogies) represented a troika of attacks on free speech in the hysteria surrounding "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
While the Dixie Chicks were given the Michael Moore-freedom fries treatment for their Dubya dissing, others have been rewarded for more reactionary sentiments. Among them are washed-up former talents such as Travis Tritt, Clint Black and Hank Jr. as well as jackass crossover act Kid Rock. (Rock, a pseudo white-rapper and rocker hybrid, recently claimed that musicians shouldn't dabble in politics, an opinion that is strange from a man who shamelessly waves flags for war in his lame videos - and which betrays an ignorance of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bob Marley and Cash and Nelson, among others.) Still, the most noted until recent was Toby Keith, the beefy singer of "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)" and other songs off his multi-platinum number one album Unleashed. Keith - taking a cue from Alan Jackson's hit 9-11 tearjerker "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" - made a rabid song of revenge in the face of the tragedy. Among the lyrics to Red, White and Blue: "Justice will be served/ And the battle will rage/ This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage/ And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./ 'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/ It's the American Way." (Not to leave well enough alone, in another song - a duet with Willie titled "Beer for Horses" - Keith glorifies vigilante justice and lynchings.) After winning three Country Music Television Video Awards, he personally dedicated one to Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks.
Still, give Keith some credit: he delivers his goods with a manly growl that has style and charm. (And anybody who could get Willie to sing with them has one good thing to his credit in The Konformist book.) If you're going to play the Lee Greenwood "God Bless the USA" card at least have the talent to justify it. Unfortunately, Darryl Worley (The Konformist Beast of the Month) is no Keith or Greenwood.
Darryl Worley shares the Dreamworks label with Toby. Perhaps it was the SKG executives who pushed for the release of his lame-assed song "Have You Forgotten?" Or perhaps it was Worley on his lone gunman self, who saw a shameless sentiment to pander in the opportunistic tune. Whatever the case, "Have You Forgotten?" combines Keith's ignorant pro-war bluster with the schmaltzy sentimentality of Jackson's "Where Were You" for the worst of both worlds lacking either singer's virtues.
Here are some of the lyrics to his song: "I hear people saying we don't need this war/ I say there's some things worth fighting for/ What about our freedom and this piece of ground?/ We didn't get to keep 'em by backing down." He would later add as a chorus: "Have you forgotten how it felt that day/ To see your homeland under fire/ And her people blown away?/ Have you forgotten when those towers fell?/ We had neighbors still inside/ Going through a living hell/ And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden/ Have you forgotten?"
The lyrics are pretty clear: those opposed to the war in Iraq have apparentely forgotten about 9-11. That is an insulting and false claim. Apparently, Worley has forgotten (or is ignorant of) the zero evidence linking either Osama bin Laden or 9-11 to Saddam Hussein. (Hussein, a brutal tyrant, had long been an ruthless enemy of radical Islam, which he viewed as a political competitor, which makes him an unlikely Osama ally.) He also chooses to ignore the bigger questions: there has yet to be any effective explanation of the incredible breakdown of NORAD air defense on the morning of 9-11, which indicates treasonous complicity in the disaster by US military officials. With the Bush Team stonewalling any investigation of the 9-11 disaster, this leads to a good question to ask Worley: What are we supposed to remember?
The ties that Worley has to the Pentagon are undeniable. He wrote "Have You Forgotten?" while on a USO tour. At a March 26 pro-war rally posing as a rally for families of American soldiers, Worley took George W. Bush's hand and said, "Mr. President (sic), I want you to know that I pray for you every day." He was given the American flag that was flown on Pentagon the first anniversary of 9-11 by Lt. General Richard Cody as a gift for his work. He has apparently benefited commercially from the ties: the song was number one on Billboard's Country Singles chart for seven weeks, and his quicky exploitative album (also titled Have You Forgotten?) debuted at number one on the country album charts and number four on the pop album list. Maybe his song isn't more offensive than Toby's, but it is the perfect example of combining equal parts bad politics and bad music.
In any case, we salute Darryl Worley as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Darryl!!!
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