Say what? But reader Colin Kingsbury makes the argument, which I am going
to ponder. Colin:
Today’s Hank Williams is… Eminem. A suggestion which I expect you will
find scurrilous, preposterous, perhaps even blasphemous. Entertain the case.
Eminem is a man from that “old, weird America.” He grew up in Detroit, in
the bad parts, very “diverse” but in the most non-PC way.
He is popular, but I would hardly characterize him as “pop.” The term is
usually applied to those “artists” like Britney, Christina Aguilera,
Shakira, who can be hot-swapped without anyone noticing, and whose music
lacks utterly any sense of individual style or substance. Now, you may
dislike Eminem’s style, and despise his substance, and not without some good
reason. But his style is singular, even in rap, a form which prior to his
emergence had become the most cliche-ridden and mongoloid in all of music.
His rhymes and formulations are far too clever to be the product of a
committee. It is not singable in the way that Williams’ music is, and that
is indeed too bad. Truth is there are plenty of singer-songwriters out there
doing folksy, singable music, but now is not their moment,
As for the contents, his songs are dark, harsh, verging on occasional evil.
Well, he has lived a life to produce such feelings. In keeping with the
times, he expresses rage where Hank Williams expressed sadness. This is a
matter of the culture, and Eminem is a symptom, not a cause.
Lastly, Hank Williams (like Johnny Cash) was hardly considered a nice boy in
his time. C.S. Lewis once said something along the lines of, “Don’t mistake
manners for values.” HW was a rider on the fringe of society in a way that
is of a part with Eminem. Fifty years’ hence the comparison will seem much
less controversial than it does today. Here’s hoping that you shall get to
see for yourself.