[Marxism] Sharp example of rightwing populism: John Rich's "Shuttin' Down Detroit"

J Rothermel jayroth6 at cox.net
Wed Apr 1 17:47:42 MDT 2009


    Video: John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”

Posted by Mike E <http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1129785784> on 
April 1, 2009

Check out this sharp example of ”rightwing populism.” John Rich wrote 
anthems for John McCain during the election (”Raising McCain 
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmKgITJejfg>“) and pro-military anthems 
(”The Good Lord and the Man 

Now he is doing this populist protest song on the “Wall Street Bankers” 
and the economic crisis.

Merle Haggard compared it to “Okie from Muskogee” (at least according to 
John Rich’s self-promotion). Rich already compares Treasury Secretary 
Geitner to Dracula 
includes themes contrasting New York City and “the real world.”

I don’t think it will be long before the themes take an even more 
explicit “anti-socialist takeover” edge. And yet, who can doubt that 
this is aimed at where many people live (and where many people are 

For background:


Protest From the Right Side of Country 

There’s no screaming on the first great song of the bailout era. No 
audible rage. No tears. Instead, on “Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” the country 
star John Rich, singing evenly, sounds perfectly levelheaded, as if he’d 
thought through his position thoroughly and acquired the peace of the 

I see all these big shots whining on my evening news

About how they’re losing billions and it’s up to me and you

To come running to

The rescue

“The song is not depressing,” Mr. Rich said last week, in an interview 
in the rooftop bar of a hotel in Gramercy Park. “The song is defiant.”

And for contemporary Nashville, shockingly topical. Mr. Rich, 35, 
conceived and wrote “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” in late January, in a fit of 
pique after watching news accounts of the $1.2 million office remodeling 
by John Thain, the Merrill Lynch chief executive. Within two weeks it 
had been recorded, mastered and released to country radio stations, as 
well as added to his new album “Son of a Preacher Man” (Warner Brothers 
Nashville), which had already been submitted to the label.

It reflects not only Mr. Rich’s songwriting gifts — he collaborated on 
the verses with the longtime country singer John Anderson — but also his 
acumen in gauging and channeling the mood of the country, aggressively 
striking a note of conservative populism rarely seen in any genre of pop 
since country music’s response to Sept. 11. (The video, which features 
Mickey Rourke and Kris Kristofferson, will be released shortly.)

But even though Mr. Rich’s subject matter is au courant, his tropes are 
familiar country tugs of war: urban versus rural, modern versus 
traditional, white collar versus blue. The most bracing moment on 
“Shuttin’ Detroit Down” comes not when Mr. Rich points a finger at those 
“living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,” but when he 
reflects on the little guy: “Well that old man’s been working in that 
plant most all his life/ Now his pension plan’s been cut in half and he 
can’t afford to die,” his voice dropping a half-step on the last word to 
indicate where the real locus of tragedy resides.

Mr. Rich sees the song as being in the us-versus-them tradition of “Okie 
>From Muskogee,” the 1969 semisatire of country life by Merle Haggard, 
with whom Mr. Rich recently crossed paths.

“He put his hand on my shoulder, and he looked me dead in the eye,” Mr. 
Rich recalled. “He said, ‘That new song you have out now, that reminds 
me a whole lot of “Okie.” As a songwriter, that is officially the 
highest compliment I’ve ever been paid.”

But in many ways “Detroit” has less to do with “Okie” and more to do 
with the left-wing protest music of that era. That it comes from the 
other side of the aisle seems a minor detail. “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” is 
skeptical of big business as well as big government — “D.C.’s bailing 
out them bankers as the farmers auction ground” — keeping a song that’s 
postpartisan, at least on the surface, consistent with right-wing thinking.

This isn’t Mr. Rich’s first dalliance with Republican talking points. 
Last year he stumped for Fred Thompson before throwing his support 
behind Senator John McCain and recording a rally song, “Raising McCain,” 
a far less imaginative slice of propaganda. (“He got shot down/in a 
Vietnam town/fighting for the red, white and blue.” )

Now that Republicans are underdogs, it’s a particularly good time to be 
a conservative agitator, and Mr. Rich is seizing the moment. His next 
single will be “The Good Lord and the Man,” about his grandfather, whom 
he said had been awarded six Purple Hearts in World War II:

When I see people on my TV taking shots at Uncle Sam,

I hope they always remember why they can

’Cause we’d all be speaking German, living under the flag of Japan,

If it wasn’t for the good Lord and the man.

“I mean it completely literally,” Mr. Rich said.

Still, these songs — “A couple of sledgehammers,” he called the two 
singles, with evident glee — capture only one side of Mr. Rich’s 
personality. “Son of a Preacher Man” is an eclectic, if often sober 
album, spanning vintage big-band country comedy (“Drive Myself to 
Drink”), dramatic self-confrontation (“Another You”) and shameless 
romance (“I Thought You’d Never Ask,” which Mr. Rich wrote to propose to 
his future wife, Joan).

Mr. Rich has a lovely, crisp high tenor, though it’s deployed to better 
effect anchoring his partner Big Kenny in Big & Rich, the duo that 
emerged in 2004 and helped bring a dash of outlaw sensibility back to 
Nashville. (Mr. Rich had earlier played in the successful country band 
Lonestar but was kicked out as the group moved toward a more 
adult-contemporary sound.) Since then, Mr. Rich has positioned himself 
as a reliable disruptor, culturally and politically.

And he makes for a charming sermonizer. Speaking of his disbelief at 
government enabling of corporate arrogance on the Fox News’s “Glenn Beck 
Program” last week, he quipped, “Why don’t you just come to my house and 
slap me while you’re at it?”

That appearance was part of an album-release media offensive that 
included turns on “Glenn Beck” and “Hannity,” where he answered one 
question with a recitation of the first verse of “Detroit,” and gave 
Sean Hannity a T-shirt that read, “If you don’t love America … why don’t 
you get the hell out?”

But he also took part in an unlikely comic skit on “Late Night With 
Jimmy Fallon” in which he gamely poked fun at rural pieties.

That last bit was the most telling, in that it implicitly asked which is 
the real cliché: the redneck, or the big-city comedy writers who think 
rednecks are all the same? Mr. Rich didn’t seem to mind toying with both 

Politics aside, Mr. Rich can be refreshingly undogmatic. As the host and 
avuncular mentor on the CMT series “Gone Country,” he shepherds 
once-weres from other music genres or entertainment careers in their 
quests to become country singers. And on the most recent season of 
“Nashville Star,” a country-music competition similar to “American 
Idol,” he was vocal about the need for Nashville to embrace Hispanic 
singers who can connect with the growing Hispanic population in the 
United States.

Mr. Rich, once the outsider scratching at the door, has now become 
something of a gatekeeper, and his idea of border policing suggests 
dashes of progressivism sprinkled throughout his conservative landscape.

“Everybody Wants to Be Me” is the most attitude-thick song on Mr. Rich’s 
new album, all about the long climb to the top. “Everybody wants to be 
me,” he charges, “but they don’t want to bruise, and they don’t want to 
bleed.” The camera’s expectations can overwhelm, he warns: “They take my 
country-boy views, make them big-city news and I just take it on the chin.”

Where “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” is calm and considered, this song is 
un-self-consciously exuberant. As martyrs go, Mr. Rich is the happiest, 
most complicit one around.

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