Music City U.S.A.
Song-maker for the country,
Singer of sad songs,
Singer of bad songs,
Singer of honky-tonk and bluegrass,
City of country Muzak:
They tell me for every talent there are five no-talents here
who make it through public relations glitz, and I believe it.
And they tell me you are marketer of song-slop and same-sounding drivel–
The country boy is all slicked up with an attitude.
And they tell me you’ve sold your soul for hits, and I
believe it, because you’re nothing without a hit
except a guitar bagman playing for change at Fifth and Church.
They say you’re drunk, on stage and off, and I believe it. I’ve seen you
puking in the gutter. I’ve seen you fall down on the stage
and curse your mother. You are drunk and a legend for being drunk.
Oh, the pure soul you had when you first came to this town,
sober and free and singing only what was in your heart to sing!
Beauty was in your voice, painful and sweet. A pang of yearning
ran through your throat and into the hearts of your wondering listeners.
Then an agent heard you and knew what you needed: touch people
and you touch nobody. You must touch the Public.
And he twisted you into a cheap, plastic souvenir from Music Row.
Yet I have an answer to those who sneer at this town:
Come show me another city that wets its pants and laughs
and goes on as if nothing had happened,
A city with this barbaric yawp in its soul, the music of
Greedy, blue-blooded, red-necked and corrupting its talent.
Strong under the twang and the strum of the jack-hammer
Lies this city, growing, renewing, marketing, singing, forever singing its song.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yes, maybe Hank Williams was real and true, but does it matter?
Away from the neon, out by the shadows along the river,
all you can hear is a whisper of him, a cry along the shore,
as his old, pure songs bleed away in the night.
Copyright 2014, revised by Stephen W. Hines