“Do you believe in rock & roll?”
This famous line from Don McLean’s “American Pie” has always seemed meaningful to me, even though its meaning must be very different for me than for someone who was alive on February 3, in 1959. Having been born in 1983, I missed the advent of rock & roll, and never had to fight for its legitimacy. I never had to hide a Buddy Holly record from my parents, nor has anyone told me, with a straight face, that anything I listen to is “the devil’s music.” But to me, believing in rock & roll is not passive at all. It means learning about the bands that made the genre a cultural mainstay, and looking for echoes of those bands in today’s music. It means not taking music for granted. It means screaming like a crazy person when you’re at a Wilco show and Jeff Tweedy wonders aloud if you “still love rock & roll.” With that spirit in mind, I headed to Brown’s Island in Richmond this past Friday to see Drive-By Truckers for the very first time. It was the band’s 15th anniversary show, marking 15 years to the day since they recorded their first demo, and what struck me was how the band personifies their genre so completely. Confident, powerful and captivating, the Truckers put on a two-plus hour demonstration of what three guitars, bass, keys and drums can do when applied correctly. Surrounded by fans who knew every lyric, I had the good fortune of recording “Let There Be Rock,” a song that states directly a truth that the band itself embodies: rock & roll has the power to lift us up, as long as we keep believing in it. Check out the video of “Let There Be Rock” above, and a studio recording of the song below, which can be found on their Southern Rock Opera album.