The darker side of Dixie: southern music and the seamier side of the rural South
This dissertation explores an aspect of southern culture that has heretofore been ignored. Music is a major force in American life, and this mode of communication has reflected southern society as much as any social institution. In order for music to reflect southern culture it must speak the language of the region, exhibit regional cultural attributes, and accept the distinctive characteristics of the rural South. By so doing, music becomes culturally accepted and therefore, it reinforces the messages, the opinions, and the ideas of southern society. This dissertation examines the rural southern cultural themes utilized in southern music since the early seventeenth century. The principal southern cultural themes explored include racism, macho behavior, sexism, rugged individualism, drunkenness, violence, drugs, confederate symbolism, regional pride, and family honor;Moreover, this dissertation examines how southern music responded to the important questions facing rural southerners in the post-World War II era when many scholars claimed the rural South began losing its distinctive characteristics. I investigate whether music promoted the new progressivism of the modern South or advanced traditional cultural themes to become a conservative backlash to change. Finally, despite the growing industrialization and urbanization of the South, the myth of the rural South survived in popular imagination. In that regard, I examine the responsibility southern music had for the survival of the region's rural image that still haunts southerners today;In conclusion, this study shows how southern music has reflected rural southern culture since the early seventeenth century. As a result, this study makes an original contribution to the cultural and social history of the American South.