Mix Live Blog: the country takes a stand

For the first time, the CMA Festival banned the display of the Confederate flag on festival grounds. My reaction when I heard the news? What took so long?

Posted: 06/16/2022

Nashville, TN (June 16, 2022)—Last weekend, the 49 CMA-Festival took place in downtown Nashville. Billed as Music City’s biggest summer event, the lineup of artists included Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson and Darius Rucker, to name a few. Without a doubt, a great roster of talent for fans of all genres of music, not just country music.

Event sponsors included billion dollar companies such as Nissan, Chevrolet, Delta, Dr Pepper, Kingsford, Monster, Pandora and People magazine. In other words, it was a huge event.

This year, for the first time, the CMA Festival banned the display of the Confederate flag on festival grounds. My reaction when I heard the news? What took so long? Has the pressure on the sponsors reached such a point that they had to acknowledge the awakened culture? Or did someone in the PR department wake up?

I’m glad to see that the CMA Festival has the courage to join NASCAR, the NCAA and other organizations that have chosen to ban the display of the Confederate flag at their events, not because it should be erased from our story (it shouldn’t be), but because of the message it conveys. A message that will not be repeated here.

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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). Sadly, I don’t think most artists see 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 list dozens of artists who have used the Confederate flag on their album covers, clothing, and even painted on guitars. More than once during my tenure with Blue Öyster Cult, we have been the guest of bands who will not be named and who proudly displayed the Confederate flag as a backdrop to their stage. This backdrop was often visible while we played, and the multitude of items (bandanas, shirts, baseball caps) for sale at the merchandising stand emblazoned with this flag added insult to injury.

It’s shocking, and I’m grateful that many artists have given up on using it. I just don’t understand why it took so long.

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