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You Can't Sing Dixie Anymore

Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott

You can't sing "Dixie" anymore. The cancel culture has ruled. Don't sing it, don't play it, don't hum it, and for God's sake don't even mention it. And please don't whistle it. You can whistle past the graveyard, but don't be whistling "Dixie". Things have gotten so bad, that the Dixie Chicks have omitted Dixie from their band name and now go by just Chicks. You remember the Chicks, although the female trio of Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer, and Martie Maguire haven't been popular since 2003. Maines seems to be easily offended, for it was in that year she criticized then President George W. Bush as being someone she was ashamed of during a London concert appearance. She took a stand, but not in Dixieland. Backlash against her comments ensued, resulting in boycotts by fans and country music stations. Was it unfair? Was it an overreach? Sure, it was but Maines misjudged her fandom badly. An audience that gladly embraced their song "Goodbye Earle" (a song about a wife poisoning her abusive husband), could not stomach semi-coherent ramblings about Bush #43. Being a victim of cancel culture herself, you would think she has learned a thing or two but apparently not if the band name change is any indication.

"Dixie" has murky origins, but generally attributed to Ohioan Daniel Decatur Emmett. Written in 1859, the song was published in 1860. Premiering in minstrel shows, the song quickly became popular throughout the South. It was even rumored to be one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite tunes. And it didn't take long before the song became the de facto anthem of the Confederacy. For the next 100 years, the song meandered in and out of popularity. It wasn't until the civil rights movement of the 1960's that the song engendered controversy. The movement deemed "Dixie" a racist relic of the Confederacy and a symbol of decades of white dominion and segregation. That white segregationists appropriated the song for nefarious purposes is unfortunate. But the lyrics say nothing about subjugation, dominion, and segregation. It is even hard to find in soldier parodies and alternative versions of the song. It has been sung and played by innumerable artists over the years including Elvis Presley. Dixie is a place and it's a state of mind. It is a symbol of Southern heritage and identity. Dixie is more inclusive and more cosmopolitan than it ever has been. Not just for African Americans, but for generations of Hispanics and immigrants from southeast Asia.  What it is not is the Confederate flag that has been a divisive symbol.

If we eliminate Dixie from our vernacular, what's next? Because cancel culture likes to play word association as well as symbol association. One can never underestimate their ferociousness and tenaciousness. They will march across your world faster than Sherman marched across Atlanta. They will leave broken careers in their wake. If I were a cotton farmer in these times, I would be getting nervous. Because the one line that stands out more than any other in 'Dixie" is I wish I were in the land of cotton. You know "cotton'; the look the feel, the fabric of our lives as the Cotton Incorporated (industry trade group) ad used to say. Because cotton is the crop that got us in to this mess, right? It's the crop that help perpetuate slavery. Without it, we might have never had a Civil War. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which made the industry more efficient. So, if you follow cancel culture logic then cotton is bad. Perhaps I wish I were in the land of polyester would be more politically correct.

And in full disclosure, I must admit that I once wrote a song called "Dixie Darling" and a song called "In the Land of Cotton'". The former about a girl from Tennessee and the latter about the trials and travails of a new generation of cotton farmers who are subject to the weather, markets, and family stress. The old men sit and speak of their discomfort and rue the day they arrived, while the newer generation of cotton farmers who are less jaded look to something greater than themselves in order to survive. Also, I must disclose that I worked in the cotton industry for several years.

It is the silly season full of outlandish extremes. So, cancel "Dixie", cancel Elvis, cancel cotton, cancel Eli Whitney, cancel Elvis…and cancel me. But I have a strong feeling I'll be back next month. And by the way Natalie, many dictionaries have concluded that "chick" is considered offensive by many women.

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Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott is a songwriter, musician, performer and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.  For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2020 Les Marcott
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