Country: Coping with Sadness

Whether it is the song played during the first dance at a wedding or the radio somehow reminding you of a deceased loved one, music has a long history of being intertwined with our deepest emotions. Yet this doesn’t just seem to be the case for the listener, as many artists use stories of their most painful memories as inspiration for their art. There have been many instances where I’ve listened to a song and reflected on how much sorrow is carried within the lyrics. Country music in particular has staked a reputation for generating a great deal of these morose melodies, present both in classic country as well as the current contemporary trend. While this may be true, the question still remains whether such music is simply the result of inspiration though somber events, or some much more personal to the artist.

Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan

In Luke Bryan‘s song “Drink A Beer” from his 2013 album Crash My Party, Bryan tells about losing his best friend, which many assumed to be him referring to his brother who died in 1996, as well as detailing the grieving process he faced afterwards. When asked about the transparency within his music in a Rolling Stone interview, the country singer offered a simple answer, saying that opening up his personal life offered a sense of reliability, especially for those undergoing similar tragedies. Because the loss of both his brother and sister coincided with his progressing country music career, Bryan considered them less as inspiration but rather “completely immersed” within his career. To him, the sadness simply flowed out from who he is as an artist, rather than anything deliberate.

Yet sadness and loss within country music is not just experienced by the listeners. In my favorite country song of all time, “When I Get Where I’m Going,” by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton, this duet talks about the struggle of living in such a broken world, facing many “sins and temptations” and experiencing “pain and darkness.” When asked about this, songwriter Rivers Rutherford answered in an interview that when the statement “Where I get where I’m going” came up, the only thing he could think about was heaven, since he had just lost his grandfather. Because of the this, the whole song was shaped around this idea of loss and redemption. However, the idea wasn’t picked up until Rutherford connected with Paisley, who had just lost a close aunt, and agreed to sing it uncut in it’s entirety. This shows that even during the songwriting process, the mutual feelings of loss connects beyond just the lyrics, as it creates an understanding beyond that which can be explained by words.

It is for this reason that I believe the mutual understanding of personal struggle to be so powerful that it connects individuals, whether in it’s initial development or public broadcasting, on an intimate level that country music has seen great success in utilizing.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music”

-Aldous Huxley


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6 Responses to Country: Coping with Sadness

  1. Mackenzi McAfee

    Your post brings up an unique aspect of country music compared to the other genres. Country songs touch you in a way that that other music cant do and that is just another reason why I think the country genre is the best quality of music. It seems like everyone always describes country music as either being a song about love or a song about partying, but there are so many more songs that really touch people and talk to their heart. Im really happy to read a post thats about something other than the stereotypes of country music. You did a great job with this one!!

  2. Brittney Haynes

    I think music in general speaks to you in such a way that it actually has the power to change your mood upon hearing a certain song. (I actually learned about that in one of my other classes.) But, yes I think you’re right, country music in particular is a genre that is relative to everyday people, so it does have a way to touch the hearts of it’s listeners, because it speaks to things that we’ve all been through. Like Mackenzie said, I like how you approached country music in a way that isn’t the stereotypical themes of the music. I do wonder what somber songs are actually based on events from the artist’s life, and which ones are just written by an outside writer to just be recorded.

  3. Tyler King

    Great article! I definitely agree with you that music and especially country music has certain sadness to it. I know for sure that whatever song is played for the father/daughter or mother/son dance at a wedding, it’s for sure going to make the parent cry and I know for certain at my siblings’ weddings that my parents were balling during those dances. There also songs like “Drink A Beer” that not everyone recognizes is a sad song a first because they are just listening to the words, “Drink A Beer” and not actually taking the time to listen to the whole song.

  4. Erin McWilliams

    Wow, Adrian! This is so well written and very easy to read. The song I was thinking about the whole time was “You’re going to miss this,” and how it makes me think about college. I think music is the easiest and fastest way to access someone’s emotions, which is why I am so attached to it and am always asking people what their favorite songs are; knowing why someone loves a song that they do opens them up to a deeper level that you might never see unless you had asked why they liked or disliked a song.

  5. Drew Scherger

    It is strange that country music seems to be tied to sadness more than any other musical genre. I guess part of that is because a lot of it started up as poor Southerners singing about their rough lives. It seems like Hank Williams was one of the earlier country artists able to get hits out of heart wrenching songs. It is weird how the two topics that country has always gravitated to are partying and personal loss. I think it also goes along with the idea of rural areas being idealized and seen as pure whereas the city is usually shown as a place that corrupts people and ruins lives in country songs.

  6. These are both good songs — thanks for sharing them. IDK exactly why so many current country songs express sad themes, but the old world ballads that figured prominently into early country performances were often very sad. A lot of people sing familiar songs when they’re away from home and lonely, and that gives them a sad veneer.

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