An insightful and wide-ranging look at one of America's most
popular genres of music, Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists
and American Culture examines how country songwriters engage with
their nation's religion, literature, and politics. Country fans
have long encountered the concept of walking the line, from Johnny
Cash's "I Walk the Line" to Waylon Jennings's "Only Daddy That'll
Walk the Line." Walking the line requires following strict codes,
respecting territories, and, sometimes, recognizing that only the
slightest boundary separates conflicting allegiances. However, even
as the term acknowledges control, it suggests rebellion, the
consideration of what lies on the other side of the line, and
perhaps the desire to violate that code. For lyricists, the line
presents a moment of expression, an opportunity to relate an idea,
image, or emotion. These lines represent boundaries of their kind
as well, but as the chapters in this volume indicate, some of the
more successful country lyricists have tested and expanded the
boundaries as they have challenged musical, social, and political
conventions, often reevaluating what "country" means in country
music. From Jimmie Rodgers's redefinitions of democracy, to
revisions of Southern Christianity by Hank Williams and Willie
Nelson, to feminist retellings by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to
masculine reconstructions by Merle Haggard and Cindy Walker, to
Steve Earle's reworking of American ideologies, this collection
examines how country lyricists walk the line. In weighing the
influence of the lyricists' accomplishments, the contributing
authors walk the line in turn, exploring iconic country lyrics that
have tested and expanded boundaries, challenged musical, social,
and political conventions, and reevaluated what "country" means in
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