David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 270: Arrested Development (Tennessee)

July 25, 2023

For today's entry, we journey to Tennessee. And I'm sorry, Arrested Development, but there is no "some strange reason it had to be/he guided me to Tennessee." Tennessee has become the eyesore of the week (don't worry Volunteers, Alabama is primed to replace you at the same time it ignores the Supreme Court). The times they are a-changing, because not that long ago, in 1992, Arrested Development made a lot of people still "dream of Tennessee."

Speech, Arrested Development's lead singer, originally penned "Tennessee" to deal with the loss of his grandmother and his brother, family centered in Tennessee.1 In this almost Gospel of a song, Speech sings of God telling him to break "outta the country and into more country," going past small towns like Dyersburg and Ripley. It may have taken a few years, Speech, but God knows of what he speaks:  get the hell away from those small towns, given the tenor of Jason Aldean's "Try That In A Small Town." In the summer of 2023, I have doubts about God leading anyone to Tennessee to find "guiding force and truth."

As anyone familiar with the Aldean controversy (and if you are not, bless you for finding ways to turn out the daily white noise of outrage) knows, his video for "Try That In A Small Town" is set in front of the Maury, Tennessee, Courthouse, with a large American flag hanging in front of the upper-level window where Henry Choate was lynched and hanged in 1927. Speech no longer has to face the "ghost of his childhood," walking "the roads [his] forefathers walked" and climbing "the trees [his] forefathers hung from." These atrocities are ever-present. Yep, Speech, I hope small town Tennessee isn't your home anymore.

"Now I see the importance of history," sings Speech in "Tennessee," a lesson lost on populations brainwashed and cultivated by the likes of Jason Aldean and Ron DeSantis. Who needs to remember history, when we can literally cover it up with a big-ass Flag? When you can remove it from school textbooks? When you can simply ban it?  When Speech sang, "Lord, why you enlighten me/without the enlightenment of all my folks," he pretty much spoke for one race, now the line rings a knell to much of mine.

I wondered how I would approach my eventual Arrested Development blog. Any generic white-man assessment of them, no matter how much I dug their first two CDs, seemed artificial and exploitative. I underestimated the potential of American society to lead me to a sincere angle. Arrested Development sold records because the songs were full of heart. The three hits from the CD "3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days In The Life Of . . ." were so catchy, so full of apt samples, so inspiring in content, that it was inevitable boring middle-of-the-country-white-guys like me would love it. The basic beats took as much from rock and pop as they did from Hip-Hop, while the background vocals were exquisitely unique.

However, all that probably doomed Arrested Development for long-term success, its broad social consciousness unsustainable in a world of Gangsta Rap. However, they are a reminder of the voices of good sprinkled through any genre. If I won't slime all of Rap with the sleaze that is N.W.A, then I won't tar all Country music with the chew that is Jason Aldean. Instead I use this moment to remember the truly courageous Country music stars, artists like Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and The (Dixie) Chicks who took a stand for unity and peace, not violence. You wanna talk about cancel culture, Mr. Aldean? Meet Ms. Maines.

It seems so dated, but can't we all just get along? I doubt that message would sell many records. Part of why "Tennessee" resonated so well was from the sense of a romantic view of a simpler life. Who's up for a game of horseshoes, a game of horseshoes?

1Wiser, Carl. "Speech of Arrested Development." Songfacts. https://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/speech-of-arrested-development  Retrieved July 22, 2023.

Arrested Development. "Tennessee." 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days In The Life Of . . ." Chrysalis, 1992. Link here.

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Day 271: Scorpions "Rock You Like A Hurricane"

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