AN ICON. A LEGEND. THE KING.
There are certain requirements to be considered a full-fledged Texan. The two big ones are to A.) be BORN in the State of Texas, and B.) be a George Strait fan. Falling in both categories, my citizenship to the Lone Star State is assured.
Oddly, it wasn't until last year that I saw George Strait in concert. It was a joint tour with REBA--a most magical night. There they were, the King and Queen of Country Music, holding Court before an eager and grateful people. Sadly, they did not perform together (which might have sent the audience into a near-riot, so perhaps it is best to have skipped a duet).
Of all country performers, George Strait is the only one that I know of that every country fan loves, not just likes, but loves. I don't like Rascal Flatts, and I know people who don't care for Josh Turner (perish the thought). However, when it comes to George Strait, all debate stops. He is loved by all age groups, both sexes, and across ethnic lines. One could be an archconservative or a staunch liberal, but both can agree that George Strait is simply a genius. Oh, I imagine an odd duck on the far right or far left (either a Fascist or an Occupier) would not care for George Strait, but that's one reason why they can be dismissed so easily: they don't know great music when they hear it. El Paso has an 80% Hispanic population and only one country station, but at every Mexican-American wedding, quinceañera, bar mitzvah, or party in general, you can be sure that a George Strait song WILL be played (sometimes right after playing a Los Tigres Del Norte song). More often than not, in El Paso a party will include both La Puerta Negra and The Chair.
Therein lies one of the great things about George Strait. His catalogue is so expansive you can fill your iPod with all his hits and spend days listening to nothing but George Strait songs. Not that my Brother Gabe hasn't had that happened...
One can go over all the records George Strait has accomplished over his career: the most Number One hits of any artist, the sell-out crowds at his concerts, but I think the genius behind George Strait is that one simply gets what he/she sees. There is no subterfuge in George Strait, he is what he appears to be: a country singer.
We have to remember that George Strait came along at a time when a more traditional sound in country was not looked up to. Even now, country at times tries to sound more like pop/rock (even rap, thanks Jason...), and I don't see much wrong with that, but with George Strait, he was unashamed of the fiddle and the pedal steel guitar being an integral part of his sound. His sound was authentically country, and he has never changed to fit the times or trends.
If one listens to George Strait sounds, one notices that they are timeless. Any of his songs from his back catalogue could easily be released now and still be hits. The more recent hits such as Twang or Love's Gonna Make It Alright are as grounded to his unique sound as Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind or Ocean Front Property.
Allow me for a moment to reflect on some of his classics. One doesn't associate George Strait with 'novelty songs', those ditties that are more for humor than anything else, say at least one song from Brad Paisley (Camouflage or I'm Gonna Miss Her), but All My Exes Live In Texas is quite a funny song. His genius (I'll use the word over and over with him) is that while the song can be funny, his delivery is such that we can get the humor but he doesn't overplay it or emphasize it. Rather, it just flows so naturally we hardly notice he's being funny.
When I saw him in concert, he didn't speak much, but he did thank us for being there and for all the Number One hits he'd had, then played a song that didn't make it to Number One. That song? Amarillo By Morning. Shockingly, one of the classics never hit Number One. Well, Hitchcock never won an Oscar, so there. What makes the song so brilliant? Well, first it tells a direct story without any dressing up: it's a short song from the perspective of a man who might look defeated but who still continues. It's almost Sisyphus-like. Another point of genius? George Strait's delivery, the way he sings, the way he holds the notes and phrases the lyrics. There's no pretense in his performance.
Which brings me to Pure Country. I love George Strait, but I don't think he was acting. He was basically playing himself, and that's all right, because he is his own man, and if he wants to make a movie, let him make a movie. One can't argue with the soundtrack. The story is simple enough (albeit a touch far-fetched), but it's probably as close to a documentary about him as we'll ever get.
The best thing about George Strait is that he has been free from scandal and controversy. He's never adopted a cause apart from the Don't Mess With Texas anti-littering campaign, and no one can say where he stands on anything. His life has been clean, which makes one respect him more.
Every single male country artist today, from good ol' party boy Luke Bryan to the righteous Josh Turner, the booze-and-tan celebrating Kenny Chesney, the hick (and proud of it) Blake Shelton, the Aussie Keith Urban, former pop-rocker turned country superstar Darius Rucker, right on down to the tougher-than-nails Eric Church, stands in the shadow of George Strait. Even those who are giants in their own right, men like Alan Jackson or Garth Brooks, have to acknowledge the genius that is George Strait.
If they don't recognize George Strait as both a genius and icon, then they have no place in country music. Period. End of Discussion.
There are few country artists who truly deserve the titles of Legend or Icon. There is Hank Williams, Sr., Willie Nelson, George Jones, and right there, among the Greats, is one George Strait.
GET THIS MAN A KENNEDY CENTER HONOR ALREADY. HE RICHLY DESERVES IT.
With that, I wish a heartfelt and most respectful 60th Birthday to The Man...The Icon...The Legend...
MR. GEORGE STRAIT.