Cultural Revolutions

June Carter Cash, R.I.P.

On May 15, at the age of 73, a living country-music legend died from complications following heart surgery at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital, with her husband of 35 years at her side.  Her life is a testament to the cultural heritage of the rural South, and the news of her death seems all the more bitter when we ponder the fate of those traditions. 

Those who think of June Carter merely as the wife of Johnny Cash betray their ignorance of the once original and lovely genre that has now degenerated into such spectacles as Garth Brooks smashing guitars on stage and Toby Keith bashing the Dixie Chicks over the honor of President George W. Bush.

June Carter was born two years after her mother, Maybelle, and her aunt and uncle, Sara and A.P. Carter, gave birth to country music.  In 1927, Victor Records’ Ralph Peer toured the rural South in an effort to find representatives of “old-time” music to record.  Among others, he found the blue yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Carter Family of the Clinch Mountains of Virginia.  Like a Negro bluesman, Rodgers, accompanying himself on the guitar, sang of poverty, heartache, and toil; the Carters, on the other hand, carried on the Appalachian traditions of Celtic folk song mixed with shape-note Gospel music, which placed great emphasis on the blessed hope of Heaven that awaits believers in Jesus immediately after death.  This music reflected...

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