One of country music’s rising acts is the trio LADY ANTEBELLUM, mixing pop music with the modern country style (more to come later on the slow distancing of the music from it’s roots). You may have seen them on any number of television shows, most famously American Idol and from performances on The Grammy Awards. Since the release of their first album in 2008 the trio, made up of two men and a woman, has seen a meteoric rise and continuously stay on top of the charts.
However, copying from the book of their predecessor and other country trio the Dixie Chicks, they have encountered some controversy. While the Dixie Chicks garnered attention for their statements against George W. Bush and the war in Iraq (something not often presented in country music circles), Lady Antebellum’s controversy revolves around a different war. The band claims their name is a reference to a form of southern architecture but critics point out that the term, even in relation to architecture, is a reference to the pre-war south civil war south in which slavery was at its height, the deep seated racism and aristocracy entrenched. The word itself, antebellum is Latin meaning “before the war” and the war in question is The War Between the States that raged from 1861-1865. Not only does their name, but the image the carry apes this connotation. They are often filmed, photographed and see in stereotypical dress of southern gentlemen and ladies, in white suits, vests and big hoop skirts (with a heavy dose of modern twists).
What does this mean for a culture when our biggest award winning acts pay tribute (though possibly unwittingly) to the age of slavery and racism and systems that have continued to exist until today?
Lady Antebellum, and often other country acts frequently reference those “good old days”, singing of the good old south, the rural and country history of the region that can be nothing be “pre-war” culture. For many songs and lyrics, those “good old days” of the past are nothing other than when “things were good” and “life was easy”. The issue is that life was easy for whites, land owners and the upper class of agrarians because of the struggle and work of slaves and lower class whites. This was not an era of ease for all but for few. We have a highly nostalgic and slated view of the time, in favor of a few.
This ideal, of returning to the “goodle days” can be summed up in the name of Lady Antebellum but also in the tenets of THE LOST CAUSE, a view developed after The Civil War in the south. The Lost Cause developed as the whites of the south started to rebuild after the destruction of the war, seeking to find their place again. Many wanted to return to the way things were, putting their struggle in the light of honor and justification. They saw the struggle as right and chivalrous defense of their home, family and way of life. Some historians began to call for the war s name to be changed to The War of Northern Aggression, turning the north into raiding Vikings, creating an idea that they had been attacked in their innocence.
While the proponents of The Lost Cause admitted the inevitability of their loss, in the face of a stronger and better equipped North, this loss and inevitability became a motivating force, making them into honorable martyrs who chose the right in the face of death and danger. Some of the most troubling tenets are the views on slavery itself, one of the root causes of the war. The views held were that:
· Slavery was a benign institution, and the slaves were loyal and faithful to their benevolent masters.
· Without slavery, the slaves would have taken control of the South.
These views are the building blocks of Jim Crow and the decades of oppression even after the abolition of slavery. The views held here, still shown in culture today
good article on the topic HERE.
NOTE: COUNTRY MUSIC IS NOT IN NATURE, RACIST AND COUNTRY MUSIC ARTISTS ARE NOT RACIST AS A RULE. THIS ESSAY MERELY EXPLORES THE IDEA THAT A BAND CHOOSING THE NAME LADY ANTEBELLUM MAY REPRESENT MORE TO CULTURE.
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