Long-flying on the garden flagpole, the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse several weeks ago. The event has continued to stir a wave of political controversy across the nation, but now a new set of voices from the country music industry is weighing in on the shifting tide.
Evolving from early American folk music, the homegrown country music industry homages the rustic, rural America of yesteryear. Country musicians, often viewed as ultimate patriots, lyricize our nation’s passion for heritage, freedom and pride. However, the use of the Confederate flag in some country music acts beats to the sound to a different sentiment.
Once a strong symbol in the realm of country music, the Confederate flag has been popularized over time by acts such as rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd and country group Alabama. Each of these iconic groups commercialized the Confederate flag, incorporating the southern banner into merchandise, staging and lyrics. Fan bases followed their idols in proudly waving the antiquated flag at performances throughout the 1970s and 80s.
Other artists, such as Kid Rock, have continued to use the Confederate flag in recent performances. The rock star’s defense of the flag have been a hot spot of controversy since his acceptance of the Great Expectations Award from Detroit’s NAACP in 2011. Despite his publicist’s statement that the singer no longer endorses the flag, the media continues to frenzy about Kid Rock’s previous defense of the Confederate flag.
Although viewed lightly by these performers, Confederate flag use and paraphernalia has died down in recent decades. As country music has expanded to wider audiences across geographic regions, use of the Confederate flag is seen less as an innocent symbol of Southern pride. It is viewed instead as an emblem of blatant oppression and segregation that should not be commercialized.
John Rich of the duo Big and Rich as well as Darius Rucker have vocalized their support of Confederate flag removal from performances, statehouses and all other public forums. Singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey supported the movement by creating “Take Down Your Flag,” a song which has received praise for its explicit call for widespread change. Mulvey wrote the song with few lyrics, but with a challenge for other Youtubers to cover the song and add a personalized message.
Many artists have chosen to quietly abandon the Confederate flag, in favor of the American flag, during their performances. With their decision, these celebrities are rejecting a token of the oppression and hate that has plagued America and are moving forward with unity in mind.
“It’s time to quit rallying around a flag that divides,” Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers states. “And it is time for the South to--dare I say it?--rise up and show our nation what a beautiful place our region is, and what more it could become."