Free Speech and Free Birds
I just caught Lynyrd Skynyrd on Austin City Limits, truly a different experience than one normally expects from PBS. The juxtaposition of writing a blog entry based on the Dixie Chicks and then watching serious old school southern metal is too extreme not to comment upon. The Austin City Limits recording was made in 2000, thirty years after the formation of the band. Although the visual signs of age were present on the members of the band, musically they were as passionate in their performance as twenty-year olds. They were not pretty, but they could still make some powerful music.
Additionally, thirty years on, they were still unabashedly politically incorrect. Although they were not draping the stage with the stars and bars, they were not ashamed of them either. The apology for this is that they view the flag of the Confederacy as an emblem of Southern pride, but that is mostly irrelevant; nobody who will listen needs to be told, and the people who need to change their mind will never listen. Lynyrd Skynyrd never advocated a return to slavery or the oppression of the blacks. They just wanted Neal Young to stop whining, and who doesn’t? For the most part, their music is quite listenable after all these years, especially if you haven't heard "Free Bird" more than five times in the last decade. (For the kids, there was a time when you were lucky if you only heard that song five times in a day!)
The key thing here is that despite having a song set that was tremendously dated, despicable to academia, and dismissed by the arbiters of culture in this country, they lit up the crowd with their music. It does not matter what is said about you in this country as long as you choose to persevere with a meaningful message. Would any incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd have survived the Clinton administration if we actually had a mechanism of suppressing musical artists in this country? This is a band that tours with Ted Nugent; do the math.
The Dixie Chicks have nothing to worry about. All they need to do is develop an utterly unique and resonant sound and perform three hundred nights a year for the next thirty years and people will cherish them. Of course if they are just a product of record executives and A&R men, well, they could be gone tomorrow. It is a shame that nothing in life is certain, except for your own will to continue on path you have chosen.