I can't recall a single time that a celebrity endorsement, whether for a politician or commercial product, influenced my decision to vote or buy. I come to my opinions and choices based on my own experiences, research, and conversations with other folks, and while there's always more to learn that could make me change course, adding a celebrity's opinion into the mix is probably the lowest factor on my totem pole.
During the current election season in America, political endorsements range from the obvious to humorous. For example, Neil Young and Lucinda Williams have spoken out in support of Bernie Sanders. George Clooney is a Hillary supporter, and he joins a star-studded list that includes Britney Spears, Kendall Jenner (her parent, Caitlyn, likes Ted Cruz), and Snoop Dogg. I can't find any celebrity speaking out on behalf of John Kasich, but Donald Trump has quite a long list of supporters including Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, Kirstie Alley, Tom Brady ... and Loretta Lynn.
Last January, Lynn gave an interview to Reuters where she said, “Trump has sold me – what more can I say?” Here's the rest, in case you missed it:
Lynn, 83, who penned and recorded country hits like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Pill” and “Rated X,” still performs between eight and 10 shows a month. She said she has been stumping for Trump at the end of each show, and declared her support for him at an awards dinner in New York in early December.
She said her audiences generally respond warmly to her cheers for Trump, and that’s unusual.
“When you get up there and try to say you want to see Hillary Clinton win, that wouldn’t go over so big,” she said.
Other Republicans can’t live up to the real estate mogul, Lynn said, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz would be her second choice. However, she said: “When you’re advertising for the best, forget the rest!”
Lynn added that she wants to campaign for him.“I just think he’s the only one who’s going to turn this country around,” she said, but added she had no plans to try to contact Trump herself. “I’m going to let him call me.”
For the past month, I've been thinking a lot about Loretta Lynn. Her first new album in a dozen years is high on the charts, generating a lot of interest. Media on every possible front -- from Pitchfork to AARP's monthly magazine -- are paying attention. There's her staggering duet and video with Willie Nelson that has made the rounds on social media, and the PBS American Masters documentary Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl. It's almost impossible to escape the majesty of her talent and achievements. This seems to be her moment.
Since 2007 Lynn has been working in the studio with John Carter Cash and her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell. They've already recorded 93 songs and she hopes to keep going. As she told The New York Times last month, she is thinking about her legacy.
"I wanted the kids to have ’em,” Ms. Lynn said. “I thought, everybody, they don’t think about what they’re leaving. So I went in and I thought, I’m going to cut every song I’ve ever had out. I started with my first hits and I cut the Top 5s and then the Top 10s. And then I just started cutting some that I wrote and some that I’ve always wanted to sing.”
Mr. Cash said Ms. Lynn has finished full albums’ worth of gospel, Appalachian and Christmas songs, along with favorites from her own repertoire and cover songs. “It was like filling in an encyclopedia,” Mr. Cash said in an interview at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tenn.
A few weeks after that was printed, she seemed to offer a different viewpoint for this Garden and Gun article:
Legacy don’t mean a thing to me. I’m just glad people like me. I don’t need to go out and charge a lot of money to do a show. I am proud that people feel that way toward me and I love them for it. I get a bang out of being out there. I don’t think that ever changes, the feeling you get when you’re out there onstage. Some people think they’re better than what they are. Ain’t none of them that good.
Merriam-Webster defines legacy as "a gift by will, especially of money or other personal property, or something transmitted or received from an ancestor or from the past." I tend to think that Lynn is interested in what people will remember her for, which the dictionary explains as "recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms." And music is one helluva mechanism.
Politics? That could be another.
I don't like Donald Trump. I think he has a black heart full of rage, anger, and intolerance. The thought that he could become the leader of my country strikes intense fear in me, and I honestly can't understand why other people can't see or feel what I do. When Loretta Lynn, a person I have enormous respect and admiration for, comes out and says she supports him ... I'm just damn conflicted.
But during these times of such sharp divide between people, I find solace in these words from Pete Seeger, who reminded us, "It's a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with."
While I doubt that Loretta and I will get a chance to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and conversation, I'd like to imagine that if we did there might be a possibility we'd each come away with a better understanding of why we're standing at opposite points on the political spectrum today. Perhaps we could find a path to move closer. (There is some hope -- she's said that she likes Barack and Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.)
It might seem easy to simply condemn Lynn for her support of Trump, but it's a soft target. If you believe in free will and free speech, then you have to recognize that she has every right to stand on the stage and say whatever she wants. While I won't pay to hear her say it, I also won't stop listening to her music and thinking respectfully of the trails she's blazed for women, and the progressive issues she's spoken out about, through her music.
But celebrity endorsements? I couldn't care less.
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