I listen to a lot of country music, as does most everyone out here. Some of it is immoral and awful, most of it is sappy and mediocre, but some of it really gives me hope for this country. Music can tell you a lot about a people and their culture. As it happens, country music is the only mainstream genre left in America in which fatherhood, motherhood, married love, faith, family, tradition, patriotism, gratitude, and other wholesome themes are not only featured regularly, but are essential to the style itself. Take the scandalously resentment-free, angst-deprived, grievance-challenged ballad “Lucky Man” by Montgomery Gentry:
Got some friends that would be here fast
I could call ’em any time of day
Got a brother who’s got my back
Got a momma who I swear’s a saint
Got a brand new rod and reel
Got a full week off this year
Dad had a close call last spring
It’s a miracle he’s still here.
I know I’m a lucky man
God’s given me a pretty fair hand
Got a house and peice of land
A few dollars in a coffee can.
My old truck’s still runnin good
My ticker’s tickin’ like they say it should
I’ve got supper in the oven, a good woman’s lovin’
And one more day to be my little kids’ dad
Lord knows I’m a lucky man.
There’s also music that should warm the heart of any American traditionalist, such as “A Different World” by Bucky Covington:
No child-proof lids, no seat belts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are,
Still here we are
We got daddy’s belt when we misbehaved
Had three TV channels you got up to change
No video games and no satellite
All we had were friends and they were outside,
It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world
School always started the same every day
The pledge of allegiance then someone would pray
Not every kid made the team when they tried
We got disappointed and that was all right,
We turned out all right
No bottled water, we drank from a garden hose
And every Sunday, all the stores were closed …
He pumped your gas and he cleaned your glass
And one cold rainy night he fixed your flat
The new stores came where you do it yourself
You buy a lotto ticket and food off the shelf
Forget the little man
Forget about that little man
He hung on there for a few more years
But he couldn’t sell slurpees
And he wouldn’t sell beer
Now the bank rents the station
To a man down the road
And sells velvet Elvis’ and
There goes the little man
There goes another little man
Now the stores are lined up in a concrete strip
You can buy the whole world with just one trip
And save a penny cause it’s jumbo size
They don’t even realize
They’re killin’ the little man
Oh the little man
But the best thing about country music, for me, are the great songs about fatherhood. Of course the most gut-wrenching of the new fatherhood songs – a piece that makes you want to simultaneously hug your kids and beat the living hell out of someone – is “Alyssa Lies” by Jason Michael Carroll. The song is about a man, his daughter, and his daughter’s young classmate who eventually dies at the hands of abusive parents. A close second in the same department is “The Little Girl” by John Michael Montgomery which, fortunately, has a happier ending:
Her first day of Sunday school the teacher walked in
And a small little girl stared a picture of Him
She said I know that man up there on that cross
I don’t know His name but I know He got off
He was there in my old house and held me close to His side
As I hid there behind our couch the night that my parents died.
There are many other notable country songs about fatherhood, including “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw, “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins, “A Father’s Love” by George Strait, “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney, and “I Wish I Could Have Been There” by John Anderson. I think my all-time favorite, though, has to be “Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn:
I remember Daddy´s hands, folded silently in prayer.
And reaching out to hold me, when I had a nightmare.
You could read quite a story, in the callouses and lines.
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind.
I remember Daddy´s hands, how they held my Mama tight,
And patted my back, for something done right.
There are things that I´ve forgotten, that I loved about the man,
But I´ll always remember the love in Daddy´s hands.
Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.