Opinion » Bill Cope

Musical Chairs

Marching to the beat of whichever drummer gets votes

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Let us take a moment here, now—before the presidential candidate pool has so many GOP hopefuls sloshing about, it will hard to distinguish who said what bullshit--to consider how Ted Cruz picks his favorite music. Maybe you heard. It seems that following the great tragedy of 9/11, he made the conscience decision to shift his listening pleasures from "classic" rock to country, claiming he was disappointed in how rock bands behaved in the wake of the attack and was impressed with how country musicians responded.

Said Ted: "I had an emotional reaction that says these are my people." (Italics added to stress the apparent sincerity with which he said it.)

The revelation came the morning after he announced his candidacy, in an interview on CBS's morning show. Gayle King asked a series of fluffy questions intended, I suppose, to uncover the essential Ted Cruz from under the hyper-political, hyper-rhetorical, hyper-ideological bunting in which we are accustomed to seeing him swaddled. After all, does not a person's preference of music hint at something more intimate about that person? Does not music transcend the political, the rhetorical, the ideological, and speak to the spiritual within us?

I've always thought so. But maybe I'm wrong.

In lieu of any further, or deeper, inquiry from Ms. King, I was left with questions I could only wish had been asked. For instance: What do you suppose Ted Cruz would consider "classic" rock? Seeing as how he is only 45 years old, his notion of classic must certainly be different by a generation than mine. Let's see... his formative years would have fallen in large part in the late- '80s/early '90s, so would Boy George have been his type? A Flock of Seagulls, perhaps? Was he a metal man?... or a Duran Duran man?

Whatever he considers classic, can we imagine young Ted Cruz grooving out to his favorite music—before it changed, I mean—pumping his fist to all that shredding, swinging his hips like a cool hep cat, muttering loud enough for his companions to hear, Far out!... Rad!... Rock on!

Yet another question King didn't see fit to ask: In what ways did rock musicians not treat 9/11 with the proper response, according to Cruz? Frankly, other than the horrific event itself, my most enduring memory of the days following 9/11 was the "Tribute to Heroes" telethon broadcast from New York, Los Angeles and London. Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and on and on. To this mourner, 2,500 miles west of Ground Zero, it seemed to be a perfect response to a tragedy so great it left a great nation so dumbfounded and saddened, it took music to express the collective grief.

Admittedly, I wasn't paying much attention to what the country crowd did in response to 9/11. All I remember from them were a couple of crap, macho, let's-kick-some-ass tunes that embodied not grief or intense loss, but the idiocy and bluster of the Bush administration. And look where that got us.

So maybe Ted Cruz can explain at some later date what exactly the country folks did that the rock folks didn't do. Was there a surge of guitar-totin' hombres in Stetsons signing up with the Marines? Switching out their snakeskin boots for desert gear? And if there was—and if Cruz had indeed found his people in them—did he follow their example and run down to the recruitment center himself?

Oh, that's right. Ted Cruz chose to sit that one out—along with any other military involvement in his life.

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But I guess the ultimate question that didn't get asked about Ted Cruz's musical epiphany would be: How does a person change something so fundamental to their nature as what music pleases them, speaks to them, moves them? I've always regarded musical taste as something we have little control over, like our sexual orientation or our favorite color—or more to the point, our sense of how we as sapient beings fit into this un-sapient universe. If that is true—which, in the wake of Ted Cruz's confession, I'm willing to concede it isn't—then normal people don't go about switching up music anymore than they can do a weekend makeover of their souls.

No, down deep where our humanity lives, we either love a kind of music or we don't. And it has nothing to do with external events. If I, for instance, were to learn that every last rapper in the world was a Democrat; a liberal; an exact reflection of me socially, culturally, politically, personally; in every way like me... that still wouldn't make me like rap music one millimeter more.

Conversely, were I to learn that every last jazz musician in the world was a racist Tea Party Libertarian with an IQ of minus-80, I wouldn't stop loving jazz.

That's just the way it works, for normal people. But then, normal people don't gauge everything they do, say, believe, enjoy and share by whether it will impress a voting bloc, do they?

So is it possible Ted Cruz doesn't, and never did, have a musical genre that truly moves him? Something that transcends the political, the rhetorical, the ideological and speaks to the spiritual within him? Assuming, of course, there is anything about him beyond the political, the rhetorical, the ideological.