AUK’s Chain Gang: Beyoncé & The Dixie Chicks “Daddy Lessons”

From The King of Juke Joint Swing to Queen Bey. Despite the anxiety of being designated driver for this week, I thoroughly enjoyed unpacking last Monday’s link by Guy Lincoln. The phrase ‘nom de plume‘ had me thinking of Eilleen Regina Edwards. She’s the same age as Wayne ‘the train’ Hancock. The most popular and successful crossover artist of the mid 1990s, she merited the name ‘Queen of Country Pop‘. After a long hiatus, her sixth studio album ‘Queen of Me’ was triumphantly released last February. A third date now added to her stop at the Hydro Glasgow in September suggests her popularity has not waned.

However, it was Guy’s chosen track ‘Double A Daddy’ that got me thinking of another musical queen and the song: ‘Daddy Lessons’. Like Wayne ‘the train’ Hancock, Beyoncé is from Texas. ‘Daddy Lessons’ was the sixth track on her 2016 album ‘Lemonade’ and her crossover into country territory was effortless.

Were the lyrics intentionally ambiguous? Don’t be fooled by the bluesy, jazzy, Louisiana horns at the start. It ticks all the boxes as a country track. The song has also been credited as starting the trend of pop stars flirting with American West and Southern aesthetics. As well as influencing the ‘Yeehaw Agenda‘ reclaiming black cowboy culture through music and fashion.

She had the temerity to team up with fellow Texans, The Dixie Chicks to release the song as a promotional single. A band who had been ostracised from the country music establishment in 2003. Words spoken on tour in Glasgow had not go down too well back home. By 2016 The Chicks were barely forgiven but still not ready to make nice.

But, it was their bold and sassy performance at that year’s CMA Awards that caused a huge conservative backlash. Did Alan Jackson actually walk out? The lukewarm audience reaction to the performance and the many viewers’ heated responses had nothing to do with the crossover of genres, the rehabilitation of The Chicks, Beyoncé’s awakened liberalism or what she wore. It was blatant not-in-our-back-yard conservatism. Some of it was just downright racism. A backlash that highlighted the politics still defining country music’s identity. Lest we forget, this was a year defined by an especially nasty presidential election and the caustic rhetoric spouted by Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

Daddy warns “And men like me come around.”

The performance at the CMA awards is mentioned in Francesca T. Royster’s book ‘Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions‘ reviewed by AUK’s Martin Johnson last February. Royster’s message of hope being: there will come a day when it is acceptable for the Black community to just simply openly enjoy country music.

Daddy Lessons’ is an uplifting country song. The powerful and provocative performance at the CMA awards remains a glorious (as they say in Glasgow) ‘get it right up ye’ victory over the establishment.

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