I think it was Shakespeare who said, “If a man don’t like music, he ain’t to be trusted.” actually, Shakespeare flowered it up quite a bit by mentioning treasons, dull spirits, and dark affections along with other high-brow insults. I suppose it could be argued that trustworthiness and music appreciation have nothing to do with each other. Maybe so. But the fact is, a self-professed music hater must naturally expect to have a cloud of suspicion around him wherever he goes--similar to the cloud that would surround a man who professes a hatred for cleanliness.
But the truth is, in my whole life I’ve only met one man who claimed to be indifferent to music. He just didn’t care about it one way or the other. And, to be honest, Shakespeare had him pegged. The only historical character I’ve read about who claimed to have no interest in music was Samuel Johnson. He is quoted as having said, “Of all the noises, music is the least disagreeable.” I can’t help but suspect that Dr. Johnson was (a)joking, (b)exaggerating or (c ) misquoted.
So, since this column is expected to at least touch on the subject of manliness, let’s get to it.
Is there a category of music that can safely be described as “manly music?” If you look at the index of Harvey Mansfield’s book Manliness, you’ll find citations to “morality” and “motherhood;” but not “music.”
Maybe a good first question to ask is, what kind of music is not manly? I’ll go out on a limb here. I’ll say if music is written by, performed by or intended to be enjoyed by fops, it’s not manly. I’m not saying fop music is bad. I’m just saying it’s not manly. Let me go a step further. If it doesn’t have a beat, if it doesn’t have a melody, if it doesn’t make enough logical sense that you can hum it, it’s probably not manly--and may not even be music. (Did you ever try to hum Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring?)
I’d have to say the more visceral music is, the more manly it’s likely to be. Manly men like their music to drive them somewhere; it may be inward; it may be outward. But manly music requires e-motion of some kind; motus anima, movement of the spirit. Think George Thorogood’s “Who do You Love?”
Of course there are many kinds of cerebral music that are best appreciated while contemplating the mystery of relationship over a warm cup of chamomile tea. Some of that stuff I like very much--the music I mean.
But if there’s a car load of manly men setting at on a cross country drive, you’re not likely to find Michael Franks of Al Stewart on the play list. As I’m writing this column, John Lee Hooker comes over my ipod singing “No More Doggin’” and from way down deep something says, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” There’s nothing effeminate about this. Nothing degenerate. Nothing misogynistic. Nothing childish or silly. This is music with backbone, with heart, lungs and soul. Not that it’s perfect. But if it has faults, they’re the faults likely to be found in manly men.
Now before I leave the subject, let me make sure there’s no misunderstanding. You don’t have to be Spanish to love Spanish guitar. You don’t have to be Italian to love Italian opera. And you don’t have to be manly to love manly music--but it helps.
For music lovers this is a big week. January 19--1939, Phil Everly is born, 1998 Carl Perkins dies; January 20--1924, Slim Whitman is born; January 21--1984 Jackie Wilson dies, 1994, Lorena Bobbitt not guilty by reason of insanity (how’d that get in there?), 1997 Col, Tom Parker dies; January 22--1931, Sam Cooke is born. January 23--1910, Django Reinhardt is born, 1986 the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inducts the first honorees; January 24--1936, Doug Kershaw is born, 1947, Warren Zevon is born; January 25--1960 Sam Cooke records “Chain Gang.” Any one of these events would warrant a column of its own. But I’m running out of space.
Let me close with another music quote. H. L. Mencken said, “There are only two kinds of music; German music and bad music.” Ordinarily I put a good deal of stock in what Mr. Mencken has to say. But in this case--eh.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
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Thu, January 22, 2009
by Michael Hinkle