We enjoyed reading accounts of Sturgill Simpson’s appearance on the street outside the Country Music Association’s award ceremony in Nashville earlier this week. The singer, with his Grammy Award for “Best Country Album” in his guitar case, performed outside the gala and took questions from fans via Facebook Live.
Its a safe bet that Simpson was inspired to make the appearance after the CMA took heat earlier this month for issuing guidelines to journalists which prohibited asking questions about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, gun control or political affiliations. The warning, which threatened potential revocation of credentials, was rescinded in response to harsh criticism from artists and fans.
Nine time CMA host Brad Paisley criticized the ban before the event, but received a mixed reply from fans. He and co-host Carrie Underwood offered a tasteful tribute to the victims of the Las Vegas massacre, and their song parody schtick at the awards ceremony poked fun at politicians but hardly touched on actual issues of policy.
Simpson was less diplomatic in his appearance outside. Although he has never embraced the role of country music’s savior, many fans see him as the torchbearer of the tradition of anti-establishment icons such as Merle Haggard. Hag won a series of CMA awards in 1970, largely due to his jingoistic, eternally misunderstood song “Okie from Muskogee” but became something of an outsider owing to his anti-establishment bend.
Outside the CMA Awards this week, Simpson’s mock acceptance speech hit on several of the ‘third rail’ subjects entirely avoided by the country music establishment:
Nobody needs a machine gun, and that’s comin’ from a guy who owns quite a few guns,” Sturgill said. “Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road behind a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. Hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you very much.