I remember a time when a common response to someone asking “what type of music do you like” was “anything but rap and country.” Nowadays, it would be a little outlandish to take such a hardline stance on the entire genre of rap, especially since it continually dominates the pop charts. However, somehow, country music never got the same courtesy. To this day it still remains a punchline for many east and west coast city dwellers, music that comes on in a bar in movies to let the protagonists know they’re not in the big city anymore. Just couple it with a few ten-gallon hat wearers giving dubious looks over their beers.

With the passing of country music icon Loretta Lynn at 90 years old today, I think it’s high time that we let country music out of the prison of less-than it’s been trapped in. I’m tempted to call the dislike of country music classist just to see how bad the comments section CAN get, but I’ll keep this straightforward for all our sakes.

Now, I’m not telling you to start listening to the new wave of frosted-tipped, over-embroidered boot-cut-jeaned modern country. But if you’re someone who, at least when asked, disavows country, can you tell yourself in good faith that you couldn’t get through a Willie Nelson album? I don’t care if your Spotify is full of Chicago drill rap, you can’t tell me that Merle Haggard's “I Think I'll Just Stay Here And Drink” isn’t a definitive and absolute banger.

The same way that in comedy, the southern accent became shorthand for a backwards-thinking dullard, country music has gotten unfairly pigeonholed. In the metaphorical Sam Goody of our minds, country music is a disorganized shelf by the bathroom distressed food court visitors make a wasteland of. The likes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and Waylon Jennings don’t deserve post-Panda-Express fumes wafting over their jewel cases. And on the same note, stop the mental gymnastics that happen to try to separate popular music like Sturgill Simpson from country. You don’t have to call it “folk rock”. You probably like some country music. And that’s ok.

Top Image: Gene Pugh/Pexels

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