Roots, Toots n' Hoots Blog
Juneteenth and country music
Jeffrey Remz | June 19, 2020
Today is Juneteenth, an annual holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. Somehow the slave owners neglected to tell the slaves that they were free some two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va.
Although celebrated by African-Americans since the late 19th century, this year is different. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among others, brought to the occasion to the fore.
So did the rally of President Trump in Tulsa, Okla. planned for today. With optics not looking good for the President, he changed his first rally since COVID-19 shut down the U.S. in mid-March to Saturday night.
Rest assured, far more Americans are now aware of Juneteenth and what it signifies.
It's part of the U.S. is becoming more and more sensitized to racial issues and problems in the U.S., and the country music community is absolutely not immune. It's great that labels and companies are contributing to African-American groups that do great work. But giving money - if you have it - is the easy part.
From a musical standpoint, isn't it also time to pay attention to the African-American country artists out there making worthy music?
On the major label front, there are extremely few African-American artists: Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Blanco Brown and Darius Rucker.
The only female on a major label (that's another problem - the lack of female artists) is Mickey Guyton, who has assumed the mantle whether she wants to or not of being a spokesperson for the cause of African-Americans. Guyton is a most worthy one at that who hasn't been afraid to go public with her concerns. Isn't it time that she be free to release her music besides a single here or there? Fortunately, she released "Black Like Me," a song that cuts to the emotional core, a few weeks ago.
Brown also released a song for these times, "Worldwide Beautiful," which takes a more optimistic tone.
They are not the only artists that we should be listening to of course. Check out the likes of Rhianna Giddens, Yola, Amythyst Kiah, Rissi Palmer, Miko Marks and an awesome New York City-based string band, The Ebony Hillbillies
And then there's Linda Martell. It only took 43 years for the first African-American woman - Linda Martell - to play the Grand Ole Opry. That was back in 1969. Check out her music on Spotify or the like. She still sounds wonderful 50 years later.
They are not alone. There are other African-American artists that deserve a fair shake as well. Seek, and you will find and hear great music.
On this day marking a momentous occasion for the African-American community, let's free ourselves of our musical confines and listen to the music coming from a different place.