Country music! | Amandala Diary

I never liked country music. I mean, I thought I never liked country music. Growing up in British Honduras in the 1950s and 60s, we didn’t have a television; the radio was our only contact with the outside world, for news, sports and music. A radio station for the whole country, and everyone was always listening until it ended at 11:00 p.m. The music was varied, local or Caribbean, Latin, jazz, pop and classical, and yes, country. At that time, I had no idea that Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Skeeter Davis, Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, Hank Locklin and so many others were country music singers. I loved the songs and the stories they told and just thought of them as music, without definition! Then the Beatles, Motown and rock and roll took over. I was then in my mid-teens and my tastes changed. Or did he?

As a black kid growing up in Belize, it would have been strange and unusual to admit that I was a country music fan, so I decided I hated it, and that was it! I turned my attention to reggae and pop music, jazz and Latin music, and life was good. Then I heard “Sweet Dreams”, by Patsy Cline, “Paper Roses”, “The end of the world”, and Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, George Jones and all the great singers of the 60s and 70s! I loved their music, but I still hated country music! It wasn’t from the country; they were great songs of love, loss and pain. And of course Elvis could never have been country! Country music wasn’t sophisticated enough, all that yodelling and nasal noise; no, i hated it.

As I get older, now a grandpa, I realize that good music is good music, regardless of genre. I watched the Ken Burns documentary on country music and realized that music, especially in America, is an amalgamation of cultures, and oh, I fell in love with Jimmie Rodgers and yodeling! And the Carter family, the pioneers of country music.

The romantic poet Shelley said that “our sweetest songs are those that tell our saddest thoughts”. He was absolutely right! The pain, suffering and rejection that these people endured, and still persevered with, testifies to their greatness, their genius for being able to make people feel better, especially in times as difficult as the Great Depression. . I realize that during this time people who looked like me were not well placed, isolated and marginalized, but remember what Shelley said. I always thought country music was white, despite Charlie Pride. Now I know it came from African, Irish, Scottish, English and European sounds, like in yodeling.

I fondly remember meeting Glen Campbell in an elevator at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis in the 1980s. I shook her hand and let her know the many times I had fucked because of her music. He couldn’t stop laughing and invited me to his show that night, which I unfortunately missed because of work! But the man with the best soft music, seductive music, will always be Kris Kristofferson. “Help me get through the night”, “Sunday morning coming down” and his countless other songs, designed for lovemaking.

Nowadays, country music has morphed into pop, rap, and rock. I’m a traditionalist and I don’t really care – give me the old time music. I guess I like country music, up to a point!

“Put your soft lips a little closer to the phone. Let’s pretend to be together, all alone. – Jim Reeves.


Toya J. Bell