So-Called “Bro-Country” is a New Thing, and an Old Thing January 20, 2015

I spent a few days in Jackson, Mississippi, last fall, and for the interest of the thing had a country music station on in my car, because you never know.  It turned out a large number of the songs were more like, say, Jimmy Buffett material than like traditional country; songs like “Redneck Yacht Club” about a boat party, and others involving pickup trucks and dancing in the moonlight with underdressed females.  Jody Rosen of the New York Times labeled this style “bro-country,” from its similarity to the fantasies of frat boys, and Emily Yahr, of the Washington Post,  gives us a long list of its chief performers.

We have had this before; but we didn’t call it country.  I’m not sure what Jimmy Buffett is considered to be, but if he were being launched today I think he would be considered to belong to country.  More to the point are the Beach Boys.  Surfing may not be the most accessible sports in Nashville [though it has given rise to two spin-off sports, sailboarding and stand up paddling, that can easily be practiced in the Nashville area, and in the original surf music era, the ultimate Arizonan musician of the days before Linda Ronstadt, Duane Eddy, recorded some tunes of ‘water ski music’ clearly to make a little fun of the Californians], but cars and girls are as abundant there as anyplace else; “Little Deuce Coupe” would appeal to NASCAR fans as much as to anyone in Southern California.  And what are “I Get Around” and “Help Me, Rhonda”?  Surely if the Beach Boys had never existed, and if they were to surface now, the country charts is where they would be found.

But we are forgetting the granddaddy of all Bro-Country and Spring Break compositions.  The lyrics called Carmina Burana were discovered in an old German monastery, set to music by Carl Orff, and premiered in Frankfurt in 1937.  Despite the date, there is nothing Nazi or anti-semitic about them.  The lyrics are mostly in Latin, with some in Old German, and a few lines in Old French.  They are proof that medieval university students knew how to party as much as ours do today!

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