I have one more Nashville-related story, and then I swear I’ll stop. (You didn’t think I could squeeze 5 blog posts out of one 4-day trip, didja? Consider yourself lucky that I ran out of disposable daylight hours before I could visit the Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.) To be honest, though, the events described in the paragraphs below could have taken place anywhere, not just in Music City, and that’s more or less the point I’ll be making.
You often hear people say that there will never be another Beatles, or another Rolling Stones. Of course these claims are correct in the literal sense, but I think they’re also accurate in a more general way; it’s hard to imagine a group having that sort of massive cultural impact now that the musical landscape is so fragmented. I often wonder if any of bands that I adore now will be considered by my hypothetical grandchildren as part of some unified musical canon, or if the diffusion of listeners’ attention across a multitude of sub-genres means that there will be several different canons, each with its own revered membership. It’s a depressing thought in some ways, one that makes this Gen-Y’er feel like his favorite bands aren’t quite as important as they ought to be (or that they might have been 50 or 60 years ago).
But guess what? My glass-half-empty, future-phobic ranting ends there, because I believe, with every fiber in my being, that songs are as important as they ever have been, and that their import isn’t going anywhere. Even if my kids’ kids’ kids’ kids don’t know who the hell Journey was, I bet they’ll still be fist-pumping like idiots to “Don’t Stop Believing” at some dive-y lunar bar in 2162. That’s because truly great, canon-worthy songs transcend genres, nations, races, ages, even the people who wrote and performed them — they become a part of us. And I’m not speaking figuratively; they literally become part of our physiology by reorganizing the neural pathways in our brains to make singing along with the lyrics easier (this would be creepy if it wasn’t so awesome). So why do I bring this up now? Because events that took place in Nashville lead to me believe Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” is one of these transcendent songs.