Ted Cruz's political tactics often leave much to be desired, and his most recent flub is no exception. On Tuesday, during a sit-down with CBS This Morning, Cruz admitted (rather timely, considering his official White House bid announcement on Monday) that his musical interests had changed immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Country music, he insisted, had responded much more patriotically to the tragedy than the classic rock he had grown up on. A touching statement, of course. But while Cruz is more than entitled to his own opinion, the facts he used to back up that changeover weren't exactly rock solid (pardon the pun) — in fact, all it takes is a look at the lyrics to see that rock 'n' roll's response to the 9/11 disaster was actually pretty spot-on.
As Vox gently points out, none of the songs written in commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy really caught on for long, with the exception of Toby Keith's macho testosterone-fest, "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" (also known as "The Angry American"), which boasted that American military members would take down the terrorists singlehandedly and put a metaphorical "boot up [their] ass". Unfortunate, since many of the masterminds behind the music could have easily done the job well. But Cruz's claim that country music ultimately handled the situation with more finesse is flawed at best.
"I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded," said Cruz on Tuesday. "And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me. ... I had an emotional reaction that said, ‘These are my people.'"
What Cruz left out was that the lyrics of both genres dedicatory songs were virtually similar in their struggle to grieve in unique ways. In country star Alan Jackson's hit "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)", Jackson mourns,
I'm just a singer of simple songs / I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell / you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God/ And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us/ And the greatest is love
Meanwhile, around the same time, Rock & Roll legend Neil Young released a single entitled "Let's Roll", in which he urges,
No one has the answer / But one thing is true,
You've got to turn on evil / when it's coming after you,
You've gotta face it down / And when it tries to hide,
You've gotta go in after it / And never be denied,
Time is runnin' out / Let's roll.
Let's roll for freedom / Let's roll for love
Both Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen also tried their hand at penning 9/11 ballads, with the former adding the simple "Freedom" to his repertoire ("This is my right, a right given by God, to live a free life"), and the latter composing an entire album in honor of the fallen (titled The Rising). Rolling Stone magazine later called Springsteen's album an "extraordinary 15-song requiem that searched for meaning in the inexplicable tragedy while saluting the grace and courage of the dead and those who mourn them" in a review of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In the years following the 9/11 attacks, a few more classic bands produced equally moving commemoratory pieces that touched on the American sentiment and landscape, most notably The Eagles' beloved "Hole in the World," which sang sorrows of an angry public desperate for revenge ("They say that anger is just love disappointed ... There's a hole in the world tonight, don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow").
If any of the dozens of rock 'n' roll songs generated by modern and classic bands didn't live up to Cruz's (or country music's) standards, perhaps it was because he refused to see the obvious: Swap out the lyrics of a crooning Kristy Jackson tear-jerker with those of The Clarks "Hey You," and you still might never be able to tell the difference.
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