Nashville, TN (June 16, 2022)—This past weekend, the 49th CMA Festival was held in downtown Nashville. Billed as Music City’s biggest summer event, the artist lineup included Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson and Darius Rucker, just to name a few. No doubt, a great roster of talent for fans of all genres of music—not just country music.
Sponsors of the event included billion-dollar corporations such as Nissan, Chevrolet, Delta, Dr Pepper, Kingsford, Monster, Pandora and People magazine. In other words, this was a huge event.
This year, for the first time, the CMA Festival banned display of the Confederate flag on festival grounds. My reaction when I heard the news? What the hell took so long? Did pressure on sponsors build to a point where they had to acknowledge woke culture? Or did someone in the PR department wake up?
I’m glad to see that CMA Festival has the guts to join NASCAR, the NCAA and other organizations who have chosen to ban display of the Confederate flag at their events—not because it should be erased from our history (it shouldn’t be), but because of the message it promotes. A message which will not be repeated here.
When I was a kid, I saw the Confederate flag quite a bit, especially when I went to shows featuring southern rock bands. At the time, I didn’t see anything wrong with it because I didn’t realize what it meant (I was apolitical in my late teens and twenties). Unfortunately, I don’t think most artists saw anything wrong with it either, and maybe their lack of awareness was part of the problem. Aren’t artists supposed to be sensitive to the Human Condition?
I could easily rattle off a list with dozens of artists who have used the Confederate flag on their album covers, clothing and even painted on guitars. More than a few times in my tenure with Blue Öyster Cult, we have been the guest of bands that shall go unnamed who proudly flew the Confederate flag as a backdrop to their stage. That backdrop was often visible while we performed, and adding insult to injury were the multitude of items (bandanas, shirts, baseball caps) on sale at the merch booth featuring that flag.
It’s revolting, and I’m thankful that many artists have abandoned using it. I just don’t understand why it took so long.