I have a confession: When I was a kid, I listened to country music. I loved it.
This was not a (stereo)typical preference among my Black peers in Dayton, Ohio—despite the fact that Black Americans were instrumental in the development of country music. As a preteen during the early 90s, there were even fewer mainstream examples of Black country artists than there are today (and streaming music was not yet a thing—I remember recording mix-tapes directly off the radio, trying my hardest to press record without catching the DJ saying, “number 8!”—but I digress). Also, let’s not forget that mainstream country music has never been very welcoming to non-White musicians or fans.
So how did I come to like country?
Growing up, my parents didn’t allow me to listen to popular hip-hop or R&B until my teenage years. I was raised on an exclusive diet of gospel and Christian music—heavy emphasis on GOSPEL (can anyone say Yolanda Adams, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, John P. Kee, and Richard Smallwood?)—and old school R&B (MJ, Whitney, Stevie, Marvin, Patti, and the like). Thinking back, I don’t even think I really knew there was any other kind of music!
Then one day, sometime around the fifth grade, I heard this random country song—I think it was “Baby Likes to Rock It” by the Tractors—and I loved it. I bought the Tractor’s album, started listening to country music radio stations, and dove deep. Reflecting as an adult, I think I was mainly craving something (anything) other than the music permitted at home. (Or maybe it was that I was making a choice for myself?)
My fascination with country music only lasted about a year, and then I slowly (surreptitiously and without my parents’ permission, in my young, foolish mind) started integrating contemporary hip-hop and R&B into my music rotation—which soon constituted the bulk of my listening preferences. (I also started middle school at the same time and discovered that girls liked my singing voice, which may or may not have played a role in pushing me further into R&B.) I stopped listening to country at the time, but picked it back up later in life in a more curated way.
Now for another confession: there really is no “point” to this post. To be transparent, it just felt great to think about something other than the ongoing pandemic, the precarity of our democracy, the surge in White supremacist domestic terror threats (and actions), the growing number of Americans who believe in an alternate reality, and the unending social injustices happening throughout our country, from the ongoing killing of unarmed Black and brown men and women by police, to the support of White supremacy through the constant denial of systemic racism from the government to the private sector, and beyond.
And I think that’s OK. Because these moments—moments of simple joy, peace, and laughter—feel all too rare lately. So I’ll pour myself some whiskey, turn on some Brooks and Dunn, and smile for a bit, lost in nostalgia. I encourage you to do the same.
Trust me—I’m a Dr. 🙂