Comments by Smirnoff

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Written on 'Oxford American' Explores Tennessee’s Music Legacy—and Gets It Half Wrong:

The New Oxford American’s 2-CD set “featuring the music of Tennessee” features a total of 50 songs.

Of those 50 songs, at least 21 are not from Tennessee.

1. Johnny Cash (Kingsland, Arkansas)
2. Bob Dylan (Duluth, Minnesota)
3. Charlie Rich (Colt, Arkansas)
4. Elvis Presley (Tupelo, Mississippi)
5. Emmylou Harris (Birmingham, Alabama)
6. Ann Peebles (St. Louis, Missouri)
7. Al Green (Forest City, Arkansas)
8. B.B. King (Berclair, Mississippi)
9. James Luther Dickinson (Little Rock, Arkansas)
10. Connie Smith (Elkhart, Indiana)
11. John Hartford (New York, New York)
12. Sid Selvidge (Greenville, Mississippi)
13. Gus Cannon (Red Banks, Mississippi)
14. Brandy Clark (Morton, Washington)
15. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (formed in Long Beach, California. Co-founder Jeff Hanna from Detroit, Michigan; Co-founder Bruce Kunkel from “rural New Jersey”)
16. Otis Redding (Dawson, Georgia)
17. George Cartwright (“Mississippi Delta”)
18. Billy Lee Riley (Pocahontas, Arkansas)
19. Kris Kristofferson (Brownsville, Texas)

• A lot of these out-of-state artists became the “sound of Tennessee” because, at some late stage in their careers, they moved to Tennessee (esp. Nashville) or made music in Tennessee and so, yes, Tennessee affected their sound.

Got it.

But just because a state has power to draw in outside talent does not mean it necessarily lacks inside talent.

Why this matters.

The long-running argument is that “place” often influences how Southerners respond to one another and what they do and how they do it. That the importance—or nuance—of place would be ignored by New Oxford American editor Roger Hodge is not surprising.

Hodge is editing this magazine from his home in Brooklyn, New York. That’s because he refused to move to Arkansas to edit the magazine.

I wonder if New Yorkers would raise a ruckus if somebody tried to edit THE NEW YORKER from Arkansas. Or from Tennessee.

By the way, I am (very) disgruntled ex-employee of The Oxford American. Whether that has affected the accuracy of my arguments here is not for me to decide.

Sincerely,

Marc Smirnoff, founder, THE OXFORD AMERICAN

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