“Have you forgotten how it felt that day? To see your homeland under fire.” Country music isn’t all about beer, cheating spouses, breakups, and trucks. These songs about September 11th show the true characteristics of country music and what it stands for. Before you click on another link to avoid re-living that horrible day, just scan over these songs listed below and think about the last time you heard a country song about something other than beer or relationships.
The country music industry was in just as much disbelief as anyone else on this historic day. They have families and friends just like the rest of us which made these songs so relatable during this hard time. Many of these artists had a similar opinion on the controversy that surrounded this historic event. Country music was significantly changed by this event and drew much bigger crowds due to national pride in most of the songs. The songs mostly dealt with patriotism, songs about the fallen citizens and law enforcement, and then reactions to the events. While most of the songs I chose deal with all three of these things, the main similarity is the fact that they all addressed the controversy of whether the United States should take action against the terrorism groups based in the middle east. Country music still has songs to this day that are being made in remembrance of this event and it continues to be a hot topic of debate. This debate continues to be brought up even by politicians in the political world such as Donald Trump in the presidential race.
“Where were you (when the world stopped turning)” by Alan Jackson, 2001
This song is probably tied for my favorite on this list. While it did not take a specific side on the controversy of whether the United States should take action, it told of all the different reactions people had on this historic day. People were in disbelief, people were angry, people were distraught, people called for action, people volunteered to help at ground zero, along with many other variations of these actions and emotions. The song was released on November 26th, which was a little more than 2 months after the devastation, and produced by Keith Stegall. The song was so popular because it was so relatable to everyone and more likely than not, Alan Jackson spoke about how you reacted. The song helped unite everyone to withstand the tragedy. I can picture my my day and how I felt by listening to this song and it always reminds me that none of us are alone when dealing with this tragedy.
“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”
“Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?”
“Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” by Toby Keith, 2002
This song is so…How should I put this….brash! When I first listened to this song I immediately felt my patriotism surge through my veins! Toby Keith you could say was the most outspoken and led the charge at supporting the Bush administrations decisions. Keith not only spoke on the controversy, he made his song controversial, for the time, when saying “Cause, We’ll put a boot in your ass” when referring to how the United States would/should respond. He felt very strongly about his opinions and the let everyone know of them. This song really changed the perspective of country music due to the fact that it intertwined patriotism and southern pride, to make a sense of unity with all people. Using words such as liberty and Uncle Sam, which normally weren’t used as much in southern country music. The song was released on May 27th of 2002, a little more than 8 months after the attacks on the nation.
“When you hear Mother Freedom
Start ringin’ her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you Courtesy of the Red White and Blue”
“Have You Forgotten” by Darryl Worley, 2003
This is the other song that is tied for my favorite on the list. I feel this song hits home and bombards antagonists of the controversy with facts. Worley appeals to the common sense in the audience and is very effective in my opinion. He starts off the song with “I hear people saying we don’t need this war But, I say there’s some thing worth fighting for” and continues to pursue the people who believe the united states should mind its’ own business and not bother intervening with foreign affairs in the middle eastern countries. He believes that the United States needs to fight against the terrorism that caused so much destruction and continues to ask in the song if those people remember their neighbors, families, and friends dying or have forgotten what happened that horrific day. While it’s not as controversial or as prideful as Toby Keith’s song, it’s a different type of country song that made people think about which side they supported. Worley lets it be known that he was distraught while also angered about the event and the controversy but did not let it affect his lyricism or ability to get his point across. This song was released on March 10th of 2003, which would be a little more than a year and 7 months after the attacks.
“Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight
Well, after 9/11 man I’d have to say that’s right
Have you forgotten how it felt that day?”
“Rich Mans War” by Steve Earle, 2004
While Toby Keith and Darryl Worley, among others, felt very strongly that the United States should fight back, there were some country artists who didn’t believe they should retaliate or participate in other countries affairs. One of these artists was Steve Earle who shared his criticism in his songs such as “Rich Mans War.” He believed that the political officials and government were using the soldiers as pawns for their own political agendas. He released his album on August 24th of 2004, which was a little less than 3 years after the attacks. He hated the idea of the war and believed it took away from the soldiers dreams and opportunities.
“When will we ever learn
When will we ever see
We stand up and take our turn
And keep tellin’ ourselves we’re free”
“Hello God” by Dolly Parton, 2002
Dolly Parton released “Hello God” which was more about a hypothetical situation, in which she is publicly praying to God to stop the violence and stop the war. This was her one official response to the war on terrorism and September 11th attacks on her album. The album was called “Halos and Horns” and was released in July of 2002, which was a little less than two years after the attacks. While she didn’t publicly bash the actions of the governments’ war on terrorism, she indirectly called for a truce meaning she didn’t support the campaign. While many have changed their minds on the war, as time has proceeded, this was her one instance of sharing her opinion.
“Hello God, are you out there? Can you hear me, are you listenin’ any more?”
“That’s the News” by Merle Haggard, 2003
Merle Haggard was something else. Just when you thought you had him figured out, he pulled a fast one on everybody. Some artists changed their opinions on the controversy whenever this debate started taking place and surprised many people. Haggard was thought of to have the same opinion as other artists such as Toby Keith, due to one early track of his “Fightin’ Side of Me”. During the song, Haggard scrutinizes the people who complain about how the government is running the country on foreign soil such as wars and says it annoys him and that it gets under his skin. This song was released back in 1970 by Haggard but was about the Vietnam War.
So one would only conclude that he felt the same about the war on terrorism, right? WRONG! Haggard actually came out in 2003 saying that the United States needs to focus on the problems here in America and get out of the Middle Eastern countries! It was during this time in 2003, that Merle haggard released “That’s the News”, giving his TRUE opinion on the war on terrorism.
“Suddenly the cost of war is somethin’ out of sight
Lost a lotta heroes in the fight
Politicians do all the talkin’: soldiers pay the dues
Suddenly the war is over, that’s the news.”
“America Will Survive” by Hank Williams Jr., 2002
While Hank Williams Jr. didn’t take a definitive side on the controversy, he showed his patriotism. Every artist could support this song since he didn’t enter the controversy and supported everyone. Songs like these, are the ones that changed country music. While speaking about “granddaddy’s” like original country music, they brought the new identity of patriotism to country music. Another great song showing the strong will of us Americans!
“Our flag is up since our people went down And we’re together from the country to town”,
“But one united people that stand behind, America can survive, America will survive”
Country music was vastly impacted during the years following the September 11th attacks and both gained a lot of new followers as well as changed the country music industry. I believe people also thought that it gained a lot of respect as well due to these artists sharing their varying opinions but also sharing their national pride. One great example of the publicity that country music gained around the world was due to Toby Keith. After releasing “Courtesy of the red, white, and blue” he went on tour overseas, therefor expanding the country music audience. The main reason he did this tour though was to thank all the soldiers over in the Middle East who were fighting to keep our freedom. He did these concerts to raise morale in Afghanistan for the soldiers. That’s how much country music truly changed due to this event. Toby Keith still does tours overseas for soldiers to this day, annually, which makes me very proud to call myself an American. The country music industry was forever changed by the tragedy in 2001 just like almost every other aspect of our lives.