Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why O Why Did I Ever Leave My Home?

I spent a good chunk of my free time over the last couple weeks re-re-re-learning some basic chords on the guitar so that I could perform at my church's variety show night. Mrs. Chaka and I sang Green Pastures. I did a solo performance of One (inspired by the Johnny Cash version, but my octave of choice was more like Bono's).

Since I was getting my callouses back, I played around with a song that regularly gets stuck in my head: I Sang Dixie, by Dwight Yoakam. It belongs to a subgenre of country songs that I like to call "Why O Why Did I Ever Leave the South?" See also, Detroit City, Smoky Mountain Memories, perhaps even I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow belongs in this category ("I left my home . . . I'm bound to ride that northern railroad").

Laments about having left the North are, on the other hand, conspicuously nonexistent. Is no one sad to have left the North? Can Northerners not sing? Did they just not leave the North? Do they thing about things like Purple Rain instead?

Well, when I sing Man of Constant Sorrow, I sub in "Minnesota" as "the place where I was borned and raised." (It bugs me that Dylan didn't. Colorado? What does that have to do with anything?)

You could say that the real source of the Southerner-in-exile laments is the economically driven migration of workers from the rural South to industrial Northern cities (that theme is pretty blatant in Detroit City). But if that's the case, we should find similar genres of music for other migrations: Are there African American blues songs about longing for the South? Mexican songs about the harsh life in los EE. UU.? Traditional Native American chants about the joys of homey Siberia?

Well, are there? You tell me.

1 comment:

Pirate Jimmy said...

I saw a hair salong called "Shear Pleasure" and it made me think of you, Chaka.