Today was a day for patriotism, and Tocqueville describes two kinds. One is the natural love humans develop for the place and polity they were raised in, for its folkways and so forth. The second is a more reflective patriotism that, aided by enlightenment rationality, “grows with the exercise of rights…and intermingles in a way with personal interest.” In the 1830s, European nations had only a fading version of the first, whereas the U.S.A. had developed the second to new heights, and had the first as well.
On many conservative websites today, we’re asked to reflect upon the genius of the founders, and the truth of the principles they built our regime upon. Rightly asked, if you ask me. Slightly more than Peter Lawler does, I endorse “founderism,” especially of the Claremont/West-Coast Straussian variety. Yes, there is ultimately more to the American story, as my love of Lawler’s, McWilliams’s, and Tocqueville’s thought indicates, but I fail to see how popular founderism can really be bad for us. True, it cannot save our regime by itself. But I don’t think it can become as dogmatic (in a libertarian or Rawlsian way) as some persons (like Patrick Deneen) fear.
But enough about our reflective patriotism. A key element of our organic patriotism is musical, and allow me to suggest it ought to involve a hearty contempt for sluggish self-important Rock in favor of the humbler pleasures of American Music. By my Martha Bayles-ian way of thinking, all American Music is to some degree Afro-American Music, whether it comes out of New Orleans or Nashville, Tin Pan Alley or Azusa Street. It is not “slave music” as those who have read too much German philosophy might suggest, but is rooted in various conflicted mixtures, the most important of which is the African/American “world the slaves made” mixing with the burdened-with-freedom world of Main Street. Rock, by contrast, comes out of the British, and sometimes American, middle classes. It comes out of higher education gone flat, out of the aristocratic floundering around in a world gone democratic.
But jabber, jabber, jabber, the proof is in the pudding. Let the battles begin!
(I won’t bother to link to the more well-known Rock numbers, and do pump up the volume to do basic justice to the Basie and Armstrong numbers.)
Round 1: Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” v. Carl Perkins, “Boppin’ the Blues”
Round 4: Van Halen, “Runnin’ with the Devil” v. Hacienda Brothers, “Light It Again Charlie”
Round 7: David Bowie, “Heroes” v. Brother Joe May, “Move on up a Little Higher”
Round 8: Jimi Hendrix, “Foxy Lady” v. Hank Williams, “Hey Good Lookin’”
Round 9: Alice Cooper, “School’s out for Summer” v. Huelyn Duvall, “Three Months to Kill”
Round 13: Led Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love” v. Muddy Waters, “I Just Want to Make Love to You”
Round 14: Ozzy Osborne, “Crazy Train” v. Duke Ellington, “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”
Round 15: Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir” v. Chuck Berry, “Back in the U.S.A.”
Oh my, it’s nuthin’ but a slaughter! Even picking some of Rock’s most popular and proudest moments, and sometimes pitting these against fairly obscure or even B-league American Music ones (e.g., Mike Fern), there just isn’t a single British-in-spirit contender left standing! Oh, maybe a few of you have a soft spot for “Kashmir” or “Heroes,” or maybe “Neat Neat Neat” is close enough to rock and roll for you to foolishly prefer it to Chenier’s zydeco, but even so, that’s 12-to-3 at best!
No, “rock n’ roll” should never be what we most proudly hail here in the U.S.A., but it’s still worth being patriotic about, and it can still deliver us from the “days of old,” which for us happen to musically be 1968-the present! So, here’s hopin’ y’all had a happy hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day…records jumpin’ on the jukebox back in the U.S.A. Fourth of July.
P.S. John, follow the youtube link in Round 1 to some NRBQ!