Tuesday , October 15 2019
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A Love of Place

Summary:
Southerners love home. This is true of many people throughout history, but place has, in part, defined the South. The earliest settlers to what became the South championed its Utopian physical qualities: warm weather, a long growing season, bountiful plant and animal life. Bad weather, disease carrying insects, and dangerous wildlife were annoyances to be tolerated if not overcome. Southern culture easily developed in this environment. A worldview in which “heaven” could be perceived on earth allowed the Southerner to find contentment. People, place, and community–a defense of hearth and home–became quintessential Southern traits and an important part of the richness of Southern art. Southern literature is popular because

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Southerners love home. This is true of many people throughout history, but place has, in part, defined the South. The earliest settlers to what became the South championed its Utopian physical qualities: warm weather, a long growing season, bountiful plant and animal life. Bad weather, disease carrying insects, and dangerous wildlife were annoyances to be tolerated if not overcome.

Southern culture easily developed in this environment. A worldview in which “heaven” could be perceived on earth allowed the Southerner to find contentment. People, place, and community–a defense of hearth and home–became quintessential Southern traits and an important part of the richness of Southern art. Southern literature is popular because Southern culture is unique and tangible, a thing to be savored not endured. When the break with the Union occurred in 1861, the Southerner easily rallied around his State because the “state” was representative of his people. He fought not for the glory of a “national” entity, but for the protection of his way of life, a way of life threatened by a foreign “other.” They were both “American,” but to the Southerner, their “America” was nothing like the “America” of the North, and no Southerner wished to be “Americanized” by a people with an alien culture and traditions.

They both spoke of the founding generation, of the founding “principles” of the United States, and to each “Union” and “liberty” were concepts best described by their own communities. To the North, “Union” offered a the freedom of fear and want, an almost messianic devotion to a territorial boundary that could not be abridged or truncated. Southerners used the same language as did the founding generation. Theirs was a commitment to the “ancient constitutions” of their fathers. Patrick Henry would have agreed.

Musicians wove this love of place into music, and by the time recorded music became an integral part of the twentieth century culture, there were more popular songs about Dixie and the South than any other place in the world. All of the fifteen Southern States of 1860 have a song or two written about them, and all fall under two categories: affirmation or defiance. Each song below represents a Southern State and a defiance or affirmation theme. I discussed this in length during our 2018 Summer School on Southern music. The South’s four hundred year history is a unique component of the American experience. I have often said the South is America. Both black and white Southerners have created a musical tapestry that explains an affection for place surpassed by very few other cultures or regions in the world.

Missouri: This tune by the virtually unknown 1970s rock group Mama’s Pride is a bluesy groove that highlights the very real problem with swindlers in Southern society. Southerners didn’t trust Bill Clinton because every Southerner knew a Bill Clinton.

Maryland: There are few Southern songs of defiance like Maryland, My Maryland, and before it was “racist” to admire this tune, black musicians performed it across the South as a jazz standard. I wonder if that makes them “racist?”

Florida: Songs about the South and Southern States became chic in the 1970s. Florida band Molly Hatchet capitalized on the trend by writing one of the best pro-Southern anthems of the period, Gator Country. Plus, you have to love Danny Joe Brown’s official Billy Carter “Redneck Power” shirt. This song sounds as good live as it does on the album.

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