Longevity of Country Music?

This is from Bob Stanley’s brilliant book, Yeah Yeah Yeah:

“Almost every genre in this story so far has withered in its effectiveness after a wile, been absorbed or usurped, or at least stopped adding significant new ideas to the mix; the chart lifespan of any new genre is usualy 5 years from start to finish but can be as short as 2 years (Merseybeat), 12 months (skiffle) or even less (acid house). There can be no such assumptions about country; divided against itself, it has endless internal arguments about what it is exactly. Come what may, even now, it remains the lingua franca of white American pop, the imagined language of the ordinary man or woman. Many of its key songs are about survival, and this probably isn’t a coincidence.

There’s a large contingent who believe bluegrass is the one true country music. Bluegrass is a high-chord, fast-picked banjo style devised by Bill Monroe from Kentuckey – ‘the blue grass state’-in the late 30s. ‘It’s pure, it’s clean’, Monroe declared in 1976. ‘There’s no sex in it.’

Country’s appeal beyond the Southern states of America is provided by an incredibly attractive shared canvas of memory. It reminds people of home – but since many of the people drawn to it have never lived in or even seen Abilene, or Death Valey, or El Paso, this is a very curious fact. One possible explanation is its longevity. It’s always been around, in some form: from silent Western movies that go back as far as 1901, to games of cowboys and Indians with Gene Autry as the soundrack, to Glen Campbell’s panoramic stories of Wichita, Galveston and Phoenix. This is a large part of its appeal, a compelling combination of affection for childhood pleasure with grown-uip domestic-scale tragedy and difficulty. Not bohemian tragedy, a sung by Carole King or Elton John, but unpaid bills, broken marriages, alcoholism. Country dealt with these issues with controlled emotion and this appealed to sensibilities far away from Texas – the British stiff upper lip, the Swedish culture of lagom, the Ghanian appreciation of cool and reserve, they would always make room for the stoicism of a singer like Jim Reeves over the ballyhoo of Gene Vincent.”

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