Country music has been very good to Collin Raye, and the chart topper returned the favor many times over with hits like Love, Me and My Kind of Girl.
Perhaps that’s why Raye dedicates part of his new autobiography A Voice Undefeated to what he calls the genre’s biggest problem. Today’s country songs, he writes, too often lack the “real life, real love and real loss” qualities that capture the best the genre once offered.
“We have devolved so much. I don’t blame the artists and the songwriters. They’re just trying to make a living,” Raye tells Breitbart News. “I know for a fact that many songwriters hate having to come up with a new way to say, ‘it’s fun to ride around in your truck with a girl.'”
He blames “the gatekeepers” for the state of the industry, saying the situation started going south around the year 2000. Raye says the accountants took over the major labels, and people who couldn’t name deep cuts on a Merle Haggard album were suddenly in charge and trying to appease the lowest common denominator, he says.
It isn’t necessarily about the rise of risque material, he says, citing Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through the Night as a prime example.
“It’s about hooking up with someone you barely know,” he says, “but it’s a magical anthem. I wish I had a nickel for every time we sang it … It’s what are you gonna bring new to this? When you stop digging that, it’s not an art form anymore.”
Perhaps the music reflects a shift that caters more to our current cultural appetites, one that influences more than just the music blaring from our car stereos.
“We love fast food … fast entertainment … we make political decisions based on something fast. We watch presidential debates and say which guy looks cooler … we don’t listen to what they’re staying or research their history. We go with the guy who looks the coolest and we get right back to Honey Boo Boo or the Kardashians,” he says.
His memoir isn’t just a country music lament. The book chronicles the positive role his Catholic faith played in his life and career, the brushes with death that changed his family forever and why country music matters so dearly to him.
His celebrated songbook might not have been written had it not been for his belief in God, which granted him strength and discipline in his younger years. Faith also kept him whole while he dealt with his wife’s critical illness years ago.
Such discipline appears to be lacking with Justin Bieber, who Raye calls a “ridiculously talented” pop star.
Today’s young and famous think they’re “almost godly, can do no wrong,” he says. It’s part of our youth-obsessed culture, and it does stars like Bieber little good.
“I feel sorry for those kids … I don’t look down on them at all. We give them too much power and too much money,” he says. That wasn’t the case years ago. Consider how Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Military despite his rising star status.
“Fame should be a byproduct of the ride you’re having while your ability is celebrated,” he says. “Patton said, ‘all glory is fleeting.'”
A Voice Undefeated chronicles Raye’s impressive ride to the top of the country music charts, the near-death experiences of several family members and the loss of his beloved grandchild Haley. He often set his music aside to be near his family in their hour of need, and later created the Haley Bell Blessed Chair Foundation his granddaughter’s name. The organization helps families of the cognitively and physically disabled.
Raye may be critical of current country music trends, but he sounds an optimist tone about the genre’s future.
“I, for one, believe the arts are where, historically, mankind has been able to rise above, from the ancient times … the arts is how people express themselves and rise above their mundane existence. Country music is an American way of doing that.”