As part of my constant quest to diversify their cultural influences, I've been introducing my kids to country music. The only country artist they had been familiar with up to now was Darius Rucker, former lead man of Hootie and the Blowfish, who as a black country singer is decidedly not representative of most of the pool, but for my kids represented 100% of their country universe. Upon seeing covers of albums by Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and Josh Turner, my kids were shocked to learn that country music was not in fact one of the myriad American forms dominated by black artists (though of course its roots are, like most American musical idioms, pretty thoroughly black).
I grew up hearing Garth Brooks in the early 90s at the local bar in rural Wisconsin where my family spent most weekends, and had over the years come to understand that he was a sight more progressive politically than the likes of Toby Keith and his recent country peers, most of whose songs seem like a checklist of who should be disqualified from the ranks of red-blooded Americans. I have to admit then that I was surprised today when listening to Garth's greatest hits album to hear a few of the predictable digs at welfare recipients (which is country music code for black folk, even though whites are the principal recipients of most forms of welfare I'm aware of) in his otherwise very clever song, American Honky-Tonk Bar Association.
Anyway, I looked online for writing about Garth Brooks's politics, and I sure enough found that, digs at welfare notwithstanding, he is indeed known as a relatively levelheaded, tolerant person in the white-identity-politics-laced world of modern country music.