August 19, 2008 — In my opinion, country music has served whatever evolutionary purpose its existence intended and should, with few exceptions, now fade into oblivion. One of those exceptions might be the songs of Kris Kristofferson. He gets to me, and when he intros his To Beat the Devil with,

It was wintertime in Nashville,
Down on Music City Row,
And I was lookin’ for a place to get myself out of the cold,
To warm the frozen feelin’ that was eatin’ at my soul
And keep the chilly wind off my guitar,

Music City Row was exactly where I wanted to be.

Except that for those of us without a poetic license it’s actually called Music Row, and I didn’t go in wintertime. I went in the sweaty, steaming Tennessee summer. Which might be why I’m posting it now, in the middest of August and, not, as may be supposed, just as filler to kill time with until the much more fascinating season of Autumn gets me into the mood to start posting some way better oddities.

Music Row is a stretch of commercial zone around 16th and 17th Avenues South in Nashville. It was here that the southern music recording industry first found the fins it needed to enter the mainstream. In medical terms, it was the point of infection. For the past half a century this area of Nashville has housed recording companies, music publishing firms, and all the infrastructure needed to commodify a genre.

I drove through it like I was trying to find a party in a neighborhood that used very small address numerals on its houses. Being unimpressed is always my own fault, though. I probably should've shown more interest in the place where Elvis recorded such classics as the Clambake soundtrack, but then again, I wasn’t able to muster much excitement six feet above his bones, either. Anyway, Music Row’s not much of an oddity. Just a packaging system. So I should move on.

However, when I arrived at the end of Music Row, I found myself at one of those crop-circle-like traffic arrangements variously called roundabouts, traffic circles, radials, and rotaries. I was only half-way through my usual, “Hey, look, kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament,” when I saw in the grassy center of the round intersection a giant statue of naked people. As I’m a sucker for both statues and naked people, I crammed my car into an impromptu parking space, Froggered across the road, tried to stick myself in an angle where the fewest male donks would show in the picture, and got a photograph documenting my existence in that space at that time.

I’ve since found out that the 38-foot-tall bronze and stone statue is called Musica, and it was created by a local artist named Alan LeQuire in 2003. LeQuire is best known in the area for creating the 42-foot-tall sculpture of Athena housed in Nashville’s re-creation of the Parthenon in Centennial Park. While I’m still trying to figure out why there’s a Parthenon in Nashville (I’m not buying the whole “Athens of the South” bit), Musica is not as hard to get. It’s people dancing, dance is the physical depiction of music, and Nashville is known as “Music City.”

Please don’t think I’m trying to talk down to you, I just don’t know what else to write about the statue. It’s nine gigantic people in a frozen Cirque du Soleil pose. And there goes the promise to my dying godmother never to reference that particular brand of performance art.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mr. ’Tofferson didn’t beat the devil. He just drank the demon’s beer for free and then stole his song. People who actually have beat the devil include:

  • Johnny, in a fiddling match in Georgia
  • Daniel Webster and Keanu Reeves, both in a court of law
  • Scott Bakula, in a Halloween episode of Quantum Leap
  • Bugs Bunny, in Tasmania, regularly throughout his career
  • Colorado Avalanche, in the 2001 Stanly Cup Finals
  • God/George Burns