These days, there seems to be a crossroads with country music and MAGA politics. The recent Bud Light controversy put a spotlight on that intersection when artists like Travis Tritt and John Rich joined Kid Rock in the futile “boycott” of the best selling beer. Of course, when puffing their collective chests out they will inevitably point to “real country music” vs today’s “woke” artists. And at the top of the list will be the Outlaws.
The Outlaws is a term that refers to a certain group of country music stars that always includes folks like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson.
And make no mistake, those artists were the real deal. They were the guys who told Nashville that they would do things their way, and then went on to do exactly just that. One of the best examples of that was when Johnny Cash played Folsom Prison, despite his record company and others begging him not to. That performance, which was recorded, is now considered one of the greatest and most iconic performances not only in country music, but in music of any genre.
Right wingers like to think of that group of Outlaws as kindred spirits and imagine they would reject all that “woke” stuff like Tritt and Rich have been so vocal about.
Kris Kristofferson was a labor and union activist, who fought for higher wages for everyone, including migrant farm workers. The same people the MAGA crowd sneer at while calling them whatever slur that they can think of. In fact, Kristofferson was presented with the Woody Guthrie Award in 2016 for a “lifetime of social activism.” That work included working with Cesar Chavez, a person who the MAGA crowd hates.
Waylon Jennings was sang about diversity and how the Vietnam War was wrong in his song, America.
Willie Nelson — well, we all know Willie is quite liberal. he has been one of the most prominent pro-marijuana activists over several decades now.
Aside from entertaining prisoners, Johnny Cash stood up for Native Americans, black people, and anyone else who needed a voice throughout his career. In fact, his first wife was black. That made him a target for white supremacist groups in the 1960s.
But a lost recording from 1991 really takes that theory that these real-deal Outlaws were conservative and throws it in the garbage. The foursome were touring as “The Highwaymen” around the world. In Norman, Oklahoma they were interviewed for a popular program in New Zealand and were directly asked about their political views. Specifically, they were asked about “what was wrong with America?”
Kristofferson didn’t hold back …
“Other than the fact that it reminds me of a lot of the flag waving and choreographed patriotism that we had in Nazi Germany a half a century ago — the fact that we got a one party system, which is in control of all 3 branches of our government. A lapdog media that is cranking out propaganda for the administration that would make a Nazi blush … other than that, we’re doing pretty good.”
Keep in mind, this is 1991. Who controlled all 3 branches? The Republicans. George Bush was President.
Johnny Cash then chimed in …
“If you ask me, one of the illnesses is that there is too much money being spent on the military and there should be more spent on education, welfare, young people — the children, the elderly, especially the elderly. There’s always been a lot of things wrong with the country but its always been our obligation and opportunity to help straighten those things out. I love this country. I love America.”
Hardly a “MAGA” or conservative attitude. In fact, one might even say they were quite “woke.”
Check out the full interview with The Highwaymen below …