Patriotism vs. protest
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Heavy metal star Andrew W.K. has a new song called "I Love NYC." The title track of band Papa Roach's new album, "lovehatetragedy" was inspired by the events of Sept. 11, as was a new song by Rush called "Peaceable Kingdom."Skip to next paragraph
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But most of these new songs, says Mr. Browne, haven't been getting attention because they don't push the limits like Earle does. Critics say Mr. Earle is using this song as a way to attract attention to save his faltering career. Well before its release, "John Walker's Blues" is being attacked as both unpatriotic and sympathetic to an enemy of the United States. Some country music DJs even say they will refuse to play it.
"We have the first amendment, so if he wants to write about that, great. But we can exercise our right not to play it," says Crash Poteet, who co-hosts a morning radio show on station KTST-FM in Oklahoma City.
Mr. Poteet says the public needs patriotic songs right now. That's why he was so outraged last month when he found out that local country musician Toby Keith was removed from ABC's July Fourth TV special. Mr. Keith claims that producers objected to the lyrics of his new song, "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)." The country singer said he was told it was not upbeat enough, with lines like: "When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell/ It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you/ Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue!"
Poteet spread the word among his listeners and fellow DJs to send Peter Jennings their old boots in protest and over 400 pairs ended up at his New York offices.
"That song just summed up how we all felt after September the 11th," says Poteet. "During Vietnam, there were other sides to the issue. Whereas, when you kill thousands of people in a cowardly attack, there is no other side to the issue."
Since the controversy began, Earle hasn't resurfaced from a vacation in Ireland.
"Steve Earle's a renegade," says Mr. Browne. "He's been riling people up in Nashville for almost 20 years now. So he's used to getting a lot of flack."
On the other hand, Bruce Springsteen an artist who has come to be perceived as a quintessential part of modern Americana has a huge fan base and his songs are sure to have an impact. "People are going to listen to what he has to say," says Dr. Crist.
His song "Paradise" echos the thoughts of a terrorist preparing a bomb as he thinks of spending eternity in paradise with a loved one he has lost.
But as musicians move past the patriotic fervor that has gripped the US since Sept. 11, new perspectives and thus controversies are bound to hit the radio waves.
"My sense is musicians are trying to gauge public sentiment. It's probably not calculated; they probably don't know how they feel themselves," he says. "Rock and roll is readjusting itself from its previous anti-war, anti-establishment stance. And I don't think it's figured out what that stance should be yet."