001. BIBLES & BANJOS[PLAY ►]
↳ here’s to corn bread, and grits, and shotguns, and mud riding. here’s to banjos and bibles and hand-rolled cigarettes. here’s to the southern belle and the son of a preacher man. a mix for the southerner in all of us, by people from the south.
01. Tin Roof - Barnstormers
02. O Death - Ralph Stanley
03. Bad Things - Jace Everett
04. Jolene - Miley Cyrus
05. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
06. Bottom of the River- Delta Rae
07. Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
08. You Are My Sunshine - Norman Blake
09. Friendly Conversation - Barnstormers
10. Dance in the Graveyards - Delta Rae
11. Jackson - Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
12. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
I am one of the people this fanmix is celebrating, a rural Southerner born and raised on an actual farm by a single working class mom and a grandparent who grew up during the Great Depression. I’ve fired those shotguns and driven those ATVs. I’ve strummed those banjos and thumped those bibles.
This mix is bullshit.
Apart from featuring ONLY WHITE MUSICIANS it includes “Sweet Home Alabama,” a song which is far too often hailed as some kind of homeland anthem instead of being criticized for its racist lyrics and celebration of segregationist politics and overtly redneck culture.
You cannot, ever, separate the bibles and banjos from the white hoods & the lynchings & the picket lines & the sit-ins & the assassinations & the overt racism that still threads through everything that the South is, an ugly undercurrent that always underlies every notion we have about down-home gospel and hospitality. There is. no. other. point. to be taken from Southern culture. It’s this or nothing. This is the one story the South can tell us right now, as broken and still horribly systemically racist as it is. Any story you try to tell about the South that leaves this part out is not the truth.
You cannot have “Sweet Home Alabama” without “Mississippi Goddam"—Everybody knows about Mississippi. Everybody knows about Alabama. You told me to talk fine just like a lady and you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie. You cannot have "Friendly Conversation" without Fats Waller’s "Black and Blue,” and I’m white inside but that don’t help my case ‘cause I can’t hide what is on my face…my only sin is in my skin. You *don’t get to have* “You Are My Sunshine” without “Strange Fruit,” and black bodies swinging in the southern breeze—the bulging eyes and the twisted mouths.
I love and grew up with most of the songs on this fanmix and they are an important, treasured part of my culture. But taken together, with nothing else, they are a giant lie. They’re the lie that leads us to not even understand what we mean when we sing about some forgotten dreamland where the sky’s always blue, ignoring that the fields are always blood-red; or when we paint New Orleans as some kind of pale pasty haven for white wanna-be vampire goths and ignore the fact that no one knows better what it means to miss New Orleans than the thousands of black men and women who lost their homes and their lives in Katrina, or when we let the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack seduce us into believing we understand what it was like to live in the Depression-era South, when you could still pay a nickel and have Birth of a Nation remind you that the Ku Klux Klan was a bunch of family-loving do-gooders, and when over 100 people were murdered between 1930-1937 in lynchings just in Mississippi, and when the federal works projects abandoned black workers and in some cases prevented them from forming unions, and Jim Crow laws kept them from fighting back.
You cannot idealize the South. You cannot idolize the South. You cannot paint it in rosy colors and talk about chess pie and peaches and how To Kill a Mockingbird made all of us feel really good about our racial progress as a nation. You cannot do any of these things, any more than you can tell the south to go fuck itself, as though Northern racism is somehow less evil for being subtler and possibly even more systemic, as though somehow gouging out everything south of the Mason-Dixon line will fix everything wrong with racism in America.
But to make silly, thoughtlessly white playlists like this and say you are celebrating the SOUTH? You might as well just throw in “Accidental Racist,” a Confederate flag, and Paula Deen’s apology while you’re at it, because this mode of “celebration” is exactly how ignorant white Southerners arrive at the conclusion that we live in a post-racial society where all dues have been paid any any slipups like, oh, wanting a bunch of black people to cosplay as slaves for a wedding is just all a big misunderstanding by people who don’t understand how nice you really are.
Because that’s what this fanmix is. It’s *nice.* But nice is different than good. It’s a nice idea, isn’t it, that the South is really just about banjos and bibles. But to put that forward as the *only* South, or even worse, the *true* South, is to perpetuate a culture of apologetics, and the erasure of all the bodies those Southern banjos and bibles helped to enslave, terrorize, marginalize, rape, objectify, dehumanize, and kill.