Critic Is Out of Tune With Country Music

<i> Hinton is president of MCA/Nashville, Strait's record label. </i>

The Times’ pop music critic begins his review of country music star George Strait’s Aug. 12 Greek Theatre concert with the words “how embarrassing.” How embarrassing, yes. Embarrassing for Robert Hilburn.

Hilburn was “generous” enough to concede that “only about 10 country artists in history have had more No. 1 singles, and the standing ovation when Strait walked on stage at the sold-out Greek testified

to his acceptance.”

Acceptance? A better word would be adoration, as exemplified by Strait’s recent hit single, “Love Without End, Amen,” which tied Billboard’s all-time record by holding the No. 1 spot on the singles charts for five consecutive weeks.


In his review, Hilburn attributes George Strait’s success to “today’s undemanding market.” Undemanding? Nothing like having a “pop music expert” patronizing country music fans and the music they love.

Country music is healthier than ever, and it’s not like the “Urban Cowboy” fad, which was fueled by the movie, and was something of a Hula-Hoop. This new explosion is based on great artists and great music.

After admitting that “Strait did country music a service in the ‘80s by helping refocus attention on the music’s classic values and away from the slick pop emphasis of the ‘70s,” Hilburn announces that now “this rich American music form is in need of a creative jump-start.”

Hilburn should take some time and listen closely to the music of the new and established country artists on the scene today. Then, I’m confident he would hear all of the creativity that millions of country music fans are presently enjoying. To this end, I am sending a collection of CDs to him as recommended listening. Also, I am repeating my standing invitation of four years ago for him to attend the annual Harlin Howard “Birthday Bash” in Nashville on Sept. 6.


What more can I say? When even one member of a choir is out of tune, the least one can do is suggest a tuning fork.

See letters to Counterpunch, F4.