Monday, September 12, 2011

Misunderstanding Shooter Jennings

Recently, while listening to Outlaw Country on my Sirius/XM radio, I heard the new Shooter Jennings tune that is creating all kinds of controversy in many music circles.  The tune, "Outlaw You", speaks to a recent spate of newer mainstream country artists who are finding success in Nashville, while claiming to be "outlaws" in the same vein of Waylon Jennings.  Of course, if these alleged comments have actually been said, those comments are rather ill-advised to say the least, and border on the absurd at the worst.

Since this songs release, Shooter has taken some heat from some fans as they speculate over the target of his well-intended message.  I have my opinion on who it could be, but it would only be speculation as well, and I'd rather not get into that.  The question I have for those who are railing against Shooter is, "What do you expect the guy to do?"  For anyone to allegedly come out and say they are anything like Waylon Jennings, in my mind, hasn't done their proper research.  I make no claims about being an expert on Waylon, but his trials and tribulations against the well-controlled recording establishment in Nashville to wrest creative control are well documented.  One need only read Waylon's autobiography from the mid-1990's to see how tough it really was for Waylon, and how big a gamble this move was.  It was a gamble that could have cost him his career, his livelihood.  Had Waylon lost the battle, it wouldn't have been just his loss.  It would have been a resounding defeat to all recording artists in every genre of music at that time as well as all of those that followed.  Creative control rarely existed, if it all, until Waylon Jennings came to town, took on the Nashville establishment, and won.

So how, really, can any of today's artists come to Nashville for a country music career (or otherwise) and claim to be another Waylon Jennings, at least as far as the "outlaw/rebel" tag is concerned?  I don't really think anyone can.  I think they can say they are paying homage to the man that made creative freedom in the music industry a reality.  But to claim that you're Waylon in a lot of ways, disrespects the sacrifice and the tremendous effort that Waylon Jennings exerted to make creative control for recording artists across North America a real possibility.  Indeed, many artists of all genres today owe a great debt to the battle fought, and won, by Waylon Jennings.

With this in mind, I don't blame Shooter Jennings, Waylon and Jessi's only son, for taking hombrage to anyone who claims they are another Waylon.  He would have seen the sacrifice first-hand and lived it along with his parents.  Comments from fans who are not as supportive of Shooter border on the ridiculous.  People are entitled to their opinion, which is something everyone can express.  But if you're going to comment on Shooter's thoughts, feelings, and music, perhaps you should listen to his music.  Shooter, much like his dad, isn't in the business to sell a bunch of records.  He's there for the music, and creating the music he feels that is relevant to him.  He is a stylist, a true artist.  Above all, he is a son who is honoring his father's life, legacy, music and above all, his father's sacrifice to an industry that allows performers to create music for their own creative purposes, not necessarily for commercial gain.

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