We were talking earlier this week about the subgenre of country music devoted to songs about the simple pleasures of small town or rural life, songs that idealize the places where the high-school team nickname is painted on the water tower, where everybody believes in Jesus, etc. It’s easy to view the popularity of this sort of thing as a reaction to the world we live in. Compared to our harried urban existence, with its tenuous prosperity and impermanent personal relationships, and the way it randomly deals out fortune and tragedy, a world bounded by solid, simple, unchanging values is extremely attractive. It’s no wonder people caught in the former might want to gravitate to the latter. Because music has such power in our lives, songs about those values grab hard and hold on tight.
But, if given the chance, would people really give up modern urbanized life for a country idyll? Would they give up satellite TV and the Internet for sitting on the front porch at sunset? Would they give up the multiplex for the fishing hole, the megamart for the small-town store, the sports bar with HD flat-screens for the Dew Drop Inn? Some might, but others may find that in their souls, they’re not so down-home after all.
There’s a song about this. Charley Pride, who’s as down-home as they come, recorded “Wonder Could I Live There Anymore,” which sounds like a nostalgic encomium to a simple life on the farm—beautiful rural vistas, Uncle Ben milking the cows, Mama in the kitchen. But it’s revealed that Uncle Ben is working the farm because Daddy is working a second job in town “to pay our bill at the grocery store.” And in the final verse, Pride says that when he thinks about his childhood and his old hometown, he doesn’t miss them like before. “It’s nice to think about it,” goes the refrain, “Maybe even visit, but I wonder could I live there anymore?”
This isn’t a postmodern song recorded recently—it was a Number-One country single for Pride in the summer of 1970. And it’s a cautionary tale for anybody, especially urban cowboys, who find themselves tempted by what looks like the simple life.
Recommended Reading: I’m late mentioning most of these links, but go read ’em anyhow: Our friend Kinky Paprika from Songs of the Cholera King has launched a fascinating new web project that will appeal to anybody who enjoys the One Day in Your Life posts at this place. It’s called 5,478 Days, and I’ll let him tell you all about it. At Bloggerhythms, read all about the 16RPM record, and what the hell it was good for. And over at My Hmphs, you might as well listen to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” now, because every TV station in the country will be using it in news stories about the Rapture this weekend. And if you haven’t heard the Cars’ new album Move Like This yet, you should, because when the world ends, you’ll be sorry you didn’t. It will make you think you’re back in 1979—if that’s something you think you need. It’s streaming at Rolling Stone.com, right here.