Even when I began my journey across the South to look into the music that helped awaken me, I wanted to hear Van Zant’s former colleagues tell me yes, he was more politically progressive than he originally got credited for. But they didn’t tell me that, because it’s not true. Those of us who have characterized the singer as a misunderstood liberal have done so only to placate our own irrational feelings of shame for responding to the passion in his music. We do the same with the violence and misogyny of hip-hop – or the drama of a Wagner symphony. When we can’t separate the artist from the art, we make the art fit our own paradigms. Rather than accepting the art for what it is, allowing ourselves to feel it without letting it threaten our sense of self, we’re dishonest in our examination of it.

Mark Kemp, Dixie Lullaby

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