Box Full of Letters from Issue #55
Red & blue in black & white, and gray
I just skimmed through my second issue of ND since becoming a subscriber. I’m a bit perplexed as to why some people got their panties all in a wad about ND taking a political stand in the September issue. It’s clear that people who disagreed with your magazine’s stand haven’t really put “alt-country” into its proper context. Even though alt-country and ND have become so much more than the genre might originally have encompassed, if you ask any so-called alt-country musician to trace their real roots, you’d quickly start hearing names like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and more recently, Bob Dylan as major influences.
Musicians like Woody Guthrie were way ahead of their time musically, and their music was intimately intertwined with their politics, which were left-leaning to say the least. When seen in this context, it would be disappointing if ND were not liberal or leftist, as it wouldn’t be true to the very subject it covers. Nobody writes to Rolling Stone complaining about it being a proud liberal publication. If you don’t like the political leanings of Rolling Stone, then don’t read it. Same goes for ND.
— John Graham
“Alt country, whatever that is.” I believe I know what it is. It’s the embracing and building upon music originally created by people of a younger America, people who placed a high value in God, family and country.
I believe the “value” part of my statement is where the disconnect, or “alt” occurs. As a paid subscriber and cover-to-cover reader of this magazine, it is clear to me that a majority of the writers and musicians featured here either do not hold to those same values, or have so changed the original meaning and intent of “God, family, country” that they are now, in my opinion, the “alt” version of those values.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this magazine and recognize that you give fair time to readers with opinions such as mine. I will continue to enjoy the writing and the music of those written about, even while respectfully disagreeing with their politics.
Thank you for giving me a forum to express my opinion. God bless George W. Bush and the war on terror and God bless America.
— Jay Pack
I was glad to see the letters in the last issue decrying the overt political leanings of the past few months. I share the feelings of those who would like to see the magazine take a less political (or at least less partisan) direction, and try and stay focused on the music.
The home delivery of ND has turned from a highly anticipated event to one bordering on dread. Where once I read the magazine cover to cover in the matter of a couple of days, it is now not unusual for the magazine to sit on my table in its plastic wrap for a couple of weeks. I look at it and wonder which of my favorite artists’ work I won’t be able to enjoy anymore after reading about them. I used to listen to more artists because of my subscription to ND. I miss that.
Peter Blackstock’s suggestion [Hello Stranger, ND #54] that I give some weight to my favorite artists’ political opinions because their music is so thoughtful doesn’t work for me; when I was young and didn’t have a job, I was liberal too. As much as their music may have touched my heart, I don’t expect a bunch of perpetual adolescents who don’t actually work for a living to have much common political sense, much less be able to figure out that there is no significant difference between Bush and Kerry.
I have suspected for years that many of my favorite artists are probably Republicrats, but I wish ND would quit rubbing my nose in it.
— Tom Liberty
Mountain Ranch, California
Permit me a last comment and then, hopefully, we can move beyond this unpleasantness. I felt like the girl in Eliot’s Prufrock when I read your response to the objections to your political commentary: “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.”
The “artists talking about America” is not the same as you guys waxing political in an editorial. I’m interested in the artists talking about America — what’s wrong with it, what’s right with it. And yes the Left seems to attract better artists than the Right — always has. That is not the argument we dissenters were making (and something tells me you guys know that was not the argument we were making).
I read the last issue cover to cover. Excellent work. Great stuff. Nothing about the artists’ political views squared with your crass and bumbling attempt at an endorsement. The reasoning behind Willie’s support of Kucinich actually made sense.
Further, one can appreciate and even agree with what the artists are saying about America and not necessarily feel any connection to their political views or candidate choices. Steve Earle is one of the greatest artists of our time but I don’t think he’s offered a single workable solution to the ills he laments so gracefully (or used to lament so gracefully; lately he is rather shrill himself — see a couple of the latest ND reviews).
Artists are artists — they are not statesmen. Most of them don’t have a clue with regard to practical solutions. Practical solutions are not their mission. Poignant portrayal is their mission and they do it well. The fact is that our political pickings these days are paltry, and no amount of artist angst or editorial heavy-handedness is going to help us with that.
The implication that those who don’t feel a political kinship with the artists within the pages of ND must be closet Toby Keith fans is a very unkind cut. I don’t even know how to begin to answer such a charge.
Perhaps there is a group of us out here in readership land that you have not taken the time to understand.
— Jason Manning
As I renew my subscription for two more years, I just want to thank you for producing such a great magazine. As for the latest controversy about mixing music and politics — seems to me that good music deals with all aspects of life. Since politics is really about war and peace, health care, education, jobs, civil rights, taxes, pot holes in the road and even who can get married, it seems a natural subject for music and music magazines. I for one encourage you to continue to speak out about the entire spectrum of life and music, including politics.
— Steve McLuckie
Many of us agree that “artists” have a right to express a political view. Inasmuch as you note repeatedly that their views are derived from “hard thinking,” I respectfully disagree in large measure. All too often the political views espoused are narrow and clearly evidence no thinking, but rather reaction. I admit that those like Steve Earle frequently try to show both sides of an issue and then lend a clue as to how they negotiated their viewpoint. Nonetheless, the majority of political statements (whether from the left or right) are entirely sanctimonious, confrontational and arrogant. Let’s be realistic, just because someone is a good musician in any capacity does not qualify their political viewpoints. Many “artists” have demonstrated musical ability without demonstrating a knack for “hard thinking.”
The fact that I may enjoy Springsteen’s music does not mean that he has ever impressed me as an intellectual or as an objective person.
Of course musicians are going represent their views, whether they are derived from original thought, merely parrot the views of those they admire, or more cynically represent a renewed effort to maintain or expand market share. In that context, your magazine should discuss political content.
But bear in mind the lack of balance and fairness has become evident in your text as well. In that regard, dear editor, I’ve had my fill. I’ve chosen not to renew my subscription.
— J Rivers Walsh
Oswego, New York
By the time you read this, the Presidential election will most likely be over and the decision, for better or worse, will have been made. And to that I say, “Thank God!” — but we will all continue to either piss and moan because we think our newly elected President is incompetent, or praise his name and pump our fists in victory.
And both of those reactions are our rights as American citizens (as long as we vote). Just as it is the artists’ right to express their political views to the world, and this magazine’s right to print those views in these pages. And it is our right to either agree or disagree with those views and choose whether or not we buy this magazine based on the views contained therein.
And even though I understand that, I have felt a little sad as I have read the letters to the editor in No Depression over the past several months. I can’t help but think how politics are dividing the people for which this magazine was founded — people with a common interest in a genre of music that isn’t mainstream and can’t be found in the pages of People or Rolling Stone.
If your other readers are like me, they started purchasing this magazine because of their love for the artists and genres of music that are included in these pages. If they are like me, they consider these artists dear friends, even though they’ve never met most of them, but their words and melodies have been a backdrop for the important events of their lives — happy and sad. They’ve nursed them through heartache and provided the soundtrack for the most memorable times of their lives. They hold a tender place in their hearts, and they will defend the artists and the songs like they are their own brothers, sisters and children.
And if they are like me, a common love for these artists and their songs have brought to them the people who are closest to them: best friends, confidants, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives…acquaintances who might slip them a bootleg CD…a connection who might put their name on the guest list when finances are a little tight…and a dozen other characters who fill the spaces in between…and all with varying ideologies and political persuasions.
So, c’mon people — can’t we all just get along? Let’s live and let live and stop all this crap and let the music do what it was always meant to: UNITE. It was meant to unite people of all different races, creeds, cultures, backgrounds, religions and political affiliations.
Let’s all get back to what brought us together in these No Depression pages in the first place: the music.
— Lori A. Fogleman
Please send us your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or No Depression, Box Full of Letters, 17000 Viking Way NW, Poulsbo, WA 98370.