Letter: A form of music that shows life as it is lived

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was disappointed to read Jaci Stephen's article, 'Music to slash your wrists by', (31 August) about the new London-based country and western radio station. 'Philosophers they ain't' says Ms Stephen, referring to country and western artists. Why should they be? The authors of these songs are poets, as anybody who has listened to 'Gentle on My Mind' by Tammy Wynette could not deny.

She seems to be alarmed by the lack of a political agenda in many of the songs, failing to appreciate that country and western is a living art form. The songs are honest discussions about life as it is lived, not as it ought to be lived. As a result they do not adhere slavishly to some prescribed ideology, as Ms Stephen would seem to prefer.

Altogether overlooking the light-hearted humour and subtle wordplay of much country music, and despite claiming to have 'put prejudices aside', Ms Stephen never abandons her set theme: that country music is 'music to slash your wrists by'. She has failed to understand the core reason for the popularity of country music: country and western, as a genre, covers the gamut of human emotional experience. However sad you may be, however desperate your situation, you can find a country song that tells you that someone has been there before, only for them it was worse. Rather than driving people to slit their wrists, country music allows them to indulge in one of life's greatest joys; wallowing in melancholy.

Ay, in the very temple of Delight;

Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine;

Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue;

Can burst Joy's grape aginst his palate fine.

Keats would have enjoyed listening to Tanya Tucker, had he only been given the chance.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE27

2 September

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