Lee Greenwood: artist, visionary, public servant?!

In a bizarre decision even for Dubya, he’s appointed Lee Greenwood to the National Arts Council. Lee “God Bless the USA” Greenwood. Several people on RPGNet have put forward the question “Why be mad about Lee Greenwood? Not liking his music isn’t enough. He’s had a number of hits, including one song that pretty much everyone knows, and he’s got name recognition. He’s been in the business for a long time. What more criteria could you want?”

I’d like to see an artist appointed who aspires to something more. More than financial success, more than a loyal audience, more than a love of the nation. We as a people need popular songs and lavishly reward the lucky slobs who get it right. Since the beginning of recorded music, the pop stars we always have with us, but in the final analysis there’s rarely anything special about people who can come up with a few hits. Musical culture is more specific and atomized than a few generations ago, but I think we understand that our tastes are not universal. I can certainly respect skill and influence in music I’m not crazy about. As for Greenwood’s undeniable love of the USA, I’d submit that fervent patriots are not in short supply.

I’d rather have seen a musician appointed who pushes the boundaries in music like Laurie Anderson. Someone who reaches across genres and generations like Mark Mothersbaugh. A musical trailblazer like Chuck D. An elder statesman like Herbie Hancock, Lucinda Williams, Alex Chilton, Willie Nelson, or Emmylou Harris. Or indeed, someone as skilled and important as Bush’s other NCA appointment, conductor JoAnn Falletta. If you’re going to bother appointing people to a National Council of the Arts, then commit to someone with a vision, something to share, somewhere to lead us. Otherwise, it’s the artistic equivalent of appointing Michael Brown to FEMA.

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