Ronnie Dunn’s Country This: What Is ‘Country’?
Ronnie Dunn is a country music legend with as many awards under his belt as road miles. Twice a month he'll provide his thoughts on country music, the music industry, or life as he sees it in a feature called Ronnie Dunn's Country This, exclusively on Taste of Country.
My dad was a diehard country music guy ... West Texas oilfield hand. He dreamed of being another Hank Williams. If music didn’t have a fiddle or steel guitar in it, it wasn’t country and wasn’t played in our house. Hank was as much a pop star as he was country. A lot of people forget that. He pushed the limits in life and with his music, but there was this thread of down-home, honest sensibility that ran through his songs and shows.
As a teenager, if I wanted to listen to Hendrix, the Beatles, Stones or Zeppelin I had to take it somewhere else. I wanted to look and dress like those guys. In many ways, they ushered in and/or represented social change. Change is always met with resistance, but if there is one fixed dynamic in life … it’s change.
Music was the air that I breathed -- still pretty much is. TV was a good place to hear music, but radio was the 500-pound guerrilla. It seems like it was always around. It was ubiquitous (easy to get to). There was a radio in every car and truck. Music was available, readily accessible and free to the listener. Now, it’s available at the push of a button on our computers and our phones. It’s more “everywhere” than it ever was.
I’m repeatedly asked why country music isn’t “country” anymore, but that very question has been asked since someone tagged the genre “COUNTRY” … my math is bad, what -- three, maybe four generations ago? Cash was as rock as he was country. One of his many successful career defining songs was the Trent Reznor song 'Hurt.'
I think, maybe, it’s ultimately about lifestyle? It defines, in many ways, who we are, what we believe in, how we choose to live our lives down to the clothes we wear and the people that we work and hang out with.
I read not long ago that the last thing that a conquered society or people give up is their music. It’s an innate core expression of who we are.
So, what makes a song “country"?
Peace, Love and Country Music,
Ronnie Dunn was part of Brooks and Dunn for more than 20 years before embarking into a solo career in 2011. As a duo, Brooks and Dunn won more CMA and ACM Awards than any other act in country music history, including four Entertainer of the Year awards. Dunn is currently working on a new album, the follow-up to the 2011 self-titled project that featured the Grammy-nominated single 'Cost of Livin'' (buy it here). All opinions expressed here are that of Ronnie Dunn himself.