Alexander: New Country Music Film Shows the Whole World Sings with Tennessee

Posted on September 23, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 23, 2019 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the new Ken Burns documentary, “Country Music,” shows that “the whole world sings with Tennessee.” 

“His new film plumbs the depths of the American soul using the one tool—music—that is most likely to touch the largest number of us,” Alexander said. “As a United States Senator from Tennessee, I will confess my bias.”

Alexander continued: “The first two hours of ‘Country Music’ were about the recordings of hillbilly music in 1927 at the birthplace of country music in Bristol where the Tennessee-Virginia state line runs down the middle of Main Street. The rest of the episodes wind through a community called Boogertown in the Smoky Mountains where Dolly Parton was born to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville to Beale Street in Memphis. We like to say that the whole world sings with Tennessee.

“But country music is more than Tennessee music, more than Appalachian music, more than the music of poor white Americans. It comes from the heart. And, as Burns’ and Dayton Duncan’s storytelling reminds us, we all have a heart. There is no better evidence of this than paying less than $20 to sit at a table at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to listen to three songwriters tell the stories behind their songs and then play them for a small audience that does not even whisper during the performances. ‘Three chords and the truth’ is how songwriter Harlan Howard defines country music.

“One could argue that Burns is our most effective teacher of United States history, a subject woefully under-taught in our schools. The lowest scores on high school advanced placement tests are not in math and science, but in American history. So I am glad to know there is more of Ken Burns’ work to come.”

Alexander introduced the Music Modernization Act with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in the U.S. Senate on May 10, 2018, to ensure songwriters are paid a fair market rate for their work. The president signed the bill into law on October 11, 2018. The new law creates a new, simplified licensing system to make it easier for digital music companies to obtain a license for songs. The simplified system will also ensure that songwriters are paid the royalties they are owed.