Although I’m a native New Yorker, now residing in Texas with stints in St. Louis and Los Angeles in between, there is “no place I’d rather be” than Tennessee. Memphis and Nashville have been frequent vacation destinations and logical road trip stopping points for me over the last near-decade of my life. This is not to mention the influence that Manchester, everybody’s favorite truck-stop-turned-paradise, has had on me.
Before I get too far off tangent and start espousing the virtues of Corky’s Barbecue, I’ll stop myself. It should suffice to note that it is no understatement to assert that Memphis and Nashville are two of the most groundbreaking, integral, irreplaceable cities for the evolution of the popular art form of music known as rock and roll in the entire world.
In case you haven’t noticed, (you would be forgiven, given the complete lack of media attention) Nashville, Tennessee is currently experiencing unprecedented flooding. How high’s the water mama? Estimates vary. Nobody knows for sure. But Johnny Cash would surely be dismayed to see the photos coming out of the city so often associated with the Man in Black. With the high degree of national news stories breaking in the time since storms ravaged the Nashville area, this tragic story of a domestic national disaster has somehow managed to fly under the radar. What’s been lost in the immense swath of coverage of the Times Square bomber, Arizona immigration bill, and BP oil spill is the estimated $1 billion in flood damage, the 30+ lives lost, the 2600+ now homeless, and the potentially irreparable damage to our historic cultural landmarks.
The original floorboards from the Grand Ole Opry, plucked from their space in the eternal radio show’s initial home at Nashville’s downtown Ryman Auditorium, are in grave danger. These floorboards are not just wood; simply put, they’re history. They’re history in the same way as the Civil War’s Battle of Nashville, which is honored with commemorative plaques at Fort Negley and around Nashville. As somebody who’s attended both the Grand Ole Opry at Opryland and most recently, a Patsy Cline revue at the Ryman, I have an incredible amount of respect for the city of Nashville and its proud musical tradition.
I’ll spare you my thoughts on why seeing the Del McCoury Band, among others, including Porter Wagoner dressed in what I know is the original technicolor dreamcoat, performing between repeat Cracker Barrel commercials, was perhaps the most significant concert experience of my lifetime. Country music may not be my “thing” in the same way as other kinds of music, but I can tell you with all due sincerity that there is nothing in American culture that comes anywhere close to the impossible longevity of the Grand Ole Opry. Not even Dick Clark. And that’s saying something. According to Opryland officials, the Grand Ole Opry will hopefully be back to near-perfect condition soon. But what about the citizens of Nashville?
Nobody has flood insurance in TN. Nobody expected this. I really don’t believe this entirely natural disaster, caused by unprecedented rainwater, is getting the attention it deserves. Let’s try to donate and help out those in need who aren’t getting the publicity they desperately deserve.