In Praise of Authenticity? Atmosphere, Song, and Southern States of Mind in Searching for the Wrong-eyed Jesus

  • Nick Hodgin
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


‘It so happens’ writes Michael O’Brien, ‘that a disproportionate amount of American popular culture […] is southern. Jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, rock music, country and western, much in those genres is southern or part of a southern cultural diaspora’. He goes on to mention the omnipresence of depictions of the South in film and television, the influence of Southern literature before claiming that ‘to know the South is indispensable to understanding America’ (O’Brien 2007: 11). It was not always thus: James Cobb argues that the late arrival of Southern music — especially country music — to the rest of America occurred at a time (1970s) when the nation was adjusting to the ‘twin shock of defeat and disillusionment previously only associated with the experience and heritage of the Southern states’ (Cobb 1999: 78). It is worth noting that Southern music — hillbilly music — was not simply unknown previously, it was actively reviled for it was seen as the noise made by the primitive half of the US. If New England was understood as the ‘genesis and crystallization of “American civilization”’, argues Larry Griffin (2006: 7), then the South was ‘America’s opposite, its negative image, its evil twin’.


Popular Music Back Region Folk Song Folk Music Musical Tradition 
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© Nick Hodgin 2015

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  • Nick Hodgin

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