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Is Country Music Inherently Conservative?

At its annual awards show last week, the Country Music Association honored the 2007 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Considering the association's track record of focusing on album sales and downplaying the genre's frequent political controversies, it perhaps came as no surprise that the CMA's anonymous industry-dominated selection committee this year honored largely apolitical performers Mel Tillis and Vince Gill and broadcaster Ralph Emery. And yet, prominent figures in American music tradition such as left-leaning balladeer Woody Guthrie, author of"Oklahoma Hills" and"This Land is Your Land," remain untapped.

Here Peter La Chapelle, Assistant Professor in the History Program at Nevada State College and author of Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California, analyzes the historical connections between country music and left-wing and right-wing politics.

The notion that country music is, and has always been, politically conservative seems so ingrained in our culture that it passes not just for cliché, but as a truism beyond reproach.

Take for instance the media commentary that followed Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines's well-publicized criticisms of President George W. Bush back in 2003.

In the Associated Press's coverage of the controversy, one leading country radio programmer wondered whether Maines had considered the political demographics of her audience, saying that country is “more on the right than on the left and it’s always been that way.”