American Music Is Great, Again and Again
American music is like nothing the world has ever seen. Music is a complex form of expression that Americans have innovated and improved beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. In the great tradition of sharing and mixing ideas (now despised by some as cultural appropriation), the American synthesis of the world’s musical styles gives birth to a new music that is more than the sum of its parts. People may argue whether America is indeed great, or how great it is, but the one realm where American greatness is never in question is music.
American culture does not care about the pedigree of race. It is interested in the pedigree of creativity, the mind and ideas. The openness and vitality of this culture allows American music to express universal truths, and the rest of the world watches and listens and learns with awe as new genres and styles of music are created as naturally as the grass grows. Watered by the embrace of freedom of expression, American music grows into novel forms, and the world listens raptly.
American music shamelessly mixes and evolves through exposure to a variety of ideas, selecting the best and most fit ones, and tossing aside those ideas that it finds no use for. It draws on tradition, but is not restricted by what has been done before. The failure of music to resonate with others is a natural symptom of the failure of ideas to find common ground with others. Music is judging what is right for oneself, and exercising the ability to communicate in an open society. The greatest musical artists discover ideas, feelings and moods within themselves that are common to all people, and thus allow people to more fully understand their own thoughts and feelings.
Music is in its most basic form the language of love. Love of material things, love of ideas, love of the self, love of others and finally love of the divine. It is worth pointing out a trajectory that some of the greatest American musical artists have followed. They begin their careers singing about secular success, and as they gain wisdom through experience, they begin to sing of their love for the divine and of universal truths. The secular-star-turned-preacher path has been followed by such American musical behemoths as Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Al Green, Sol Hoopii and all the others.
Nobody should be afraid to celebrate achievements, successes that everyone can share in the fruit of. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the fact that all the groups that one can divide America into do not each exist in a vacuum. America exists as a vibrant whole, and we should be proud of all of America’s musical achievements. Defending his friend Elvis against suggestions that he usurped African-American culture for his own benefit, Jackie Wilson said: “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.” Where we came from is with us always, but what we are and what we will become is the vision that we should value and focus on.
American music is so powerful, one has cause to wonder that we could facilitate the opening of closed and unfree societies simply by distributing our music. Cultures with values that denigrate women would certainly benefit from being exposed to the music of female musicians such as Lena Horne, Diana Ross, The Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift or Loretta Lynn. People who are trapped in these places would see how Americans, both men and women, can fearlessly explore their identities and speak their minds without fear of retribution. Our music highlights the power and value of the individual soul, and inspires people to look for common human experiences instead of getting hung up on superficial differences.
America does not owe the world any more than people owe each other love. Pure love is given freely, and so America lovingly bestows its music onto the world, and is loved in return for its exceptional endowment to the arts. Without the stain of unearned pride, America owes itself credit for its music. Exceptional American music spreads light and joy across the world, a beacon of love and hope that knows no bounds. Every culture has its traditional music, but American musical feats soon become traditions of the world. What other culture or country can boast the creation and nurture of such rich and stunning genres of music as Ragtime, Blues, Jazz, Bluegrass, R&B, Doo-Wop, Country, Rock and Roll, Funk, Soul, Hip hop and Rap, bands like Sublime that transcend genre, and all the others too countless to name?
Take heed and listen, America’s greatness shines in its music.