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Elementary my dear Jackson

Country Musings by Robert Loy, June 2000

I happened to hear "Yesterday, When I Was Young," a classic Roy Clark song the other day. (Okay, it didn't just happen; I had to get up at a quarter past ungodly on Sunday morning. This is the time C&W radio pays homage to its history-makers, thus ensuring that no one will actually hear it and make unflattering comparisons to today's hit-makers.) Have you heard this one? It's from the point of view of a guy realizing he's growing old and looking back regretfully at his wasted youth. Lines like "I used my magic age as if it were a wand, and never saw the waste and emptiness beyond" and "And ev'ry conversation I can now recall concerned itself with me and nothing else at all" are dangerously close to poetry, as lyrical as they are true.

Even with my rose-colored hindsight, I know that songs this intelligent and mature were rare back in the '60's and '70's. Still, that's preferable to today when they're all but extinct. As if to drive this point home, the Hall of Fame show ended, and soon Neal McCoy was crooning that what really turns him on is the shake.

And I thought of something Harlan Ellison said: "They erase the past, enabling the young to feel arrogant and smug in their lack of knowledge of what went before. They institutionalize transience, they deify momentary sensation, theyennoble that which is obsolete even as it becomes preeminent."

Ellison didn't spell out who "they" were. To me it obviously refers to the people who sell country modern music.

Yeah, there are still songs that have something more to say than "I like the way your butt wiggles," and they still occasionally slip past program directors and get on the radio. Occasionally.

But, is it just my paranoia kicking into high gear or does it seem that George Strait and Alan Jackson's "Murder on Music Row" is not getting the kind of rotation you'd expect from a duet from two of today's biggest stars? Could it be because the guys who decide what you can and cannot hear have blood on their hands?