Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

Ramblin' Rhodes: Fourth of July is good time to celebrate freedom of speech

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The Fourth of July reminds us that the same first amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects freedom of speech also extends that same freedom of expression in songs.

Toby Keith  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Toby Keith

Of course, the Federal Communications Commission determines just how much of that expression can be broadcast over the U.S.-controlled airways.

Country music songs, as a rule, are pretty tame in their language compared to rap or rock or more pushing-the-boundaries kinds of music.

When Charlie Daniels came out in 1980 with In America, even the word “hell” was not in the original radio-released version when he sang:

“Well, the eagle’s been flying slow, and the flag’s been flying low, and a lotta people say that America’s fixing to fall. But speaking just for me and some people from Tennessee, we got a thing or two to tell y’all. This lady may have stumbled, but she ain’t ever fell. And if our enemies don’t believe that, they can all go straight to hell. We’re gonna put her feet back on the path of righteousness and then, God bless America again.”

It’s a good bet that he will be singing that song when he returns to Augusta on Thursday, July 19, for a concert with Travis Tritt at Lady Antebellum Pavilion at Evans Towne Center Park in Evans, Ga.

The word “hell” now is broadcast in a re-released version of the recording.

Toby Keith years later never had a problem broadcasting a three-letter word for rear end when he recorded Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue and sang:

“Oh, justice will be served and the battle will rage: This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage. An’ you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. ’Cos we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.”

The word “hell,” which was banned only a few decades ago on country music radio stations, now is standard in such recordings as Montgomery Gentry’s Hell Yeah, Rodney Atkins’ If You’re Going Through Hell, T. Graham Brown’s Come Hell or High Water, Kevin Fowler’s Hell Yeah I Like Beer, T.G. Shepard’s War Is Hell On The Home Front Too, etc.

Even squeaky clean Brad Paisley sings in his 2011 released song A Man Don’t Have To Die, “It’s six months short of thirty years when the boss man lays you off. No thankin’ you, no parachute, no shiny new gold watch. It’s payments that you can’t make on a house that you can’t sell. See, a man don’t have to die to go to hell.”

Country music over the years has skirted the usage of profanity in songs through the heavy usage of innuendos and double meanings.

Conway Twitty and Elvis Presley in the ’60s and ’70s were both masters of it with their sexy, growling voices.

Twitty sang in I’d Just Love To Lay You Down: “Lay you down and softly whisper pretty love words in your ear. Lay you down and tell you all the things a woman loves to hear. I’ll let you know how much it means just havin’ you around. Oh, darlin’, how I’d love to lay you down.”

And Twitty went even farther with his You’ve Never Been This Far Before singing:

“I don’t know what I’m saying as my trembling fingers touch forbidden places. I only know I’ve waited for so long for the chance that we are taking. I don’t know and I don’t care what made you tell him you don’t love him anymore. And as I taste your tender kisses I can tell you’ve never been this far before.”

No profanity there, but certainly you can cut the sexual tension in that song with a butter knife.

You have that same intensity with Presley’s 1957 hit single Don’t in which he sings, “Don’t, don’t, that’s what you say each time that I hold you this way. When I feel like this and I want to kiss you, baby, don’t say don’t.”

T.G. Shepard in War Is Hell On the Home Front Too conveyed that same sexual emotion without profanity in singing of a love affair between a 16-year-old boy and a woman whose military husband is off at war:

“My first taste of loving was everything that it should have been. When a woman’s fighting loneliness, it’s a battle she can’t win. I’ll always remember what she did and what she said. But the one thing that I’ll remember most is the way she turned his picture over face down on the table by her bed.”

Garth Brooks had the same theme of a teenager experiencing sex with an older woman with his hit single That Summer singing of a hired farm boy and a “lonely widow woman:”

“That summer wind was all around me; nothing between us but the night. When I told her that I’d never, she softly whispered that’s alright.”

Wow, that’s hotter than any of these recent days in Augusta in July.

Anyway, country music singers and songwriters and especially professional journalists like me each Fourth of July should thank America’s forefathers and foremothers for their insistence on their protecting all of our freedom of speech through the first amendment.

NATALIE STOVALL BACK: Fiddle-playing country singer Natalie Stovall will be back in the area performing for free at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 8, in Alexander Hall at Fort Gordon. Doors open at 1:30.

She is hitting military bases heavy this week with concerts July 3 at Fort Rucker in Dothan, Ala.; July 4 at Fort Bragg, N.C.; and July 7, at Fort Jackson in Columbia.

Stovall, a native of Columbia, Tenn., began playing the fiddle at age 4, and by 10 was performing regularly in the Kid’s Club Show at the Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tenn.

She graduated in 2004 from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she had formed a band called Green Line South.

Her Web site,
nataliestovall.com, contains these interesting comments by her: “Before I made my living with music, I once got paid to dress up like Tony the Tiger at a Walmart grand opening. … I love going into a room of people that have never heard me or my music and doing my best to win them over before
they leave. I love going into a room of people that already know me and my music even more.”

SINGING THROUGH EUROPE: Sharon Jones called me this past Sunday from France, and Carey Murdock e-mailed me from Sweden. Both North Augustans continue their tours with Jones in Kongsberg, Norway, on July 5 and Murdock having an off day between concerts Tuesday night in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Thursday, July 5, in Gent, Belgium.

Both return to the U.S. at the end of this month. Follow Murdock’s travels and see the photos he has been posting on his blog site at themurdock.tumblr.com.


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