We’re celebrating the grit, the muscle, and the honor in country manhood, with the Top 10 Country Songs About Being A Man.
10) Alan Jackson – “Small Town Southern Man” (Arista, 2007)
Alan Jackson swears “Small Town Southern Man” isn’t autobiographical.
But he has four older sisters…just like the song.
Alan admits he drew on his own life experience to help write it, but it’s really intended as a salute to anyone who was brought up in a traditional rural lifestyle as Alan was.
“Small Town Southern Man” isn’t Alan’s only great Man song.
Below, he salutes the small businessmen of small town USA, in a bygone era before jet travel and interstate highways.
9) Kenny Rogers – “Coward Of The County” (United Artists, 1979)
It’s a universal message…you don’t have to fight to be a man.
But sometimes you do.
The story in “Coward Of The County” reaches a turning point when Tommy’s wife Becky is sexually assaulted by the Gatlin boys. (Not a slap at Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Bros, despite rumors to the contrary).
Realizing you can’t always turn the other cheek, Tommy stands up to the bullies…and knocks all three of them out.
Not PC for 2011, the song may be best understood by those uncomfortable with its message, in the context of a number of story-songs recorded by Kenny Rogers in the late 70’s and early 80’s…most notably “The Gambler“.
8) Clint Black – “Better Man” (RCA, 1989)
The single was titled “Better Man”. The album art called it “A Better Man”.
Either way, Clint Black’s debut single displayed a healthy attitude toward a break-up.
No “woe is me” or “I hate you”…instead it was more like “we had our time and now it’s over, but I’m glad for the experience”.
It was the kind of intelligent lyric that would characterize Clint’s decade-plus run of hits.
7) Tim McGraw – “My Next Thirty Years” (Curb, 2000)
Newsflash: we all grow old.
Some don’t handle that factoid very well.
But in “My Next Thirty Years” – a Phil Vassar composition – Tim McGraw sings of celebrating his age, laughing at youthful mistakes and making his next thirty “the best years of my life”.
I can’t help but smile every time I hear this song. That kind of optimism is contagious.
6) Trace Adkins – “Just Fishin'” (Show Dog/Universal, 2011)
A little daddy/daughter time makes powerful memories for both. Do this enough and a bond is created that helps both parent and child – and thrive – during those tough teenage years.
Songs like this make Country Music even more special than it is already.
And for the record, I have two sons and don’t fish. Our bonding time was either over watching old Looney Tunes or working on cars out in the garage.
But as Trace said, it ain’t ’bout fishin’. It’s about being there for your kids.
5) Brad Paisley – “I’m Still A Guy” (Arista, 1998)
Let us all put our tongues firmly in our cheeks now, shall we?
The reaction of the Darien Lake, NY crowd is priceless, in what amounts to a world premiere (this was shot in 2007 before the 5th Gear album dropped).
Only Brad Paisley could get away with putting the words “copped a feel” into a song without people thinking he was a lout.
And let’s be honest…all of us guys can identify with this song.
We are men. We are pigs. If it weren’t so, porn wouldn’t be a multi-jillion dollar industry…would it?
4) Montgomery Gentry – “Back When I Knew It All” (Columbia, 2008)
Being a Man means owning up to your past mistakes…and in the process realizing you’re not all that and a bag of chips.
“Back When I Knew It All” is one of a number of growing-up-and-becoming-a-man songs Montgomery Gentry have in their portfolio. This one in particular deals with the realization that your mom & dad weren’t stupid buffoons after all, and that life is still pretty cool as an adult.
3) Brooks & Dunn – “Hard Workin’ Man” (Arista, 1993)
Brooks & Dunn had about as meteoric a kickoff as one can imagine: Four consecutive Number Ones, a Dance Anthem (“Boot Scootin’ Boogie”) and a truckload of awards.
Just hit Play. You’re watching it.
“Hard Workin’ Man” – the kickoff hit from Brooks’ & Dunn’s sophomore album – celebrated the virtues of a good old fashioned day’s work.
And to be gentlemanly, Ronnie ended the song with the quick vocal coda…”and women too!” so no one would be left out.
Hard working and thoughtful.
2) Craig Campbell – “Family Man” (Bigger Picture Group, 2010)
If you know the lyrics, you can understand why “Family Man” is here.
The story speaks right to the current economic situation.
One of my neighbors was downsized when a local mill had a mass layoff. He cut back on his expenses, found work doing something at which he’s skilled, and developed his own business as a general contractor.
Now he has all the work he needs – and then some. But he’s known for his craftsmanship so clients wait for him rather than call someone else.
Real men take pride in their work – and in their family.
In the eyes of their spouse and kids they find hope for a brighter tomorrow.
“Family Man” honors that commitment.
Sometimes, however, bad things happen to good people…and for a myriad of reasons, they just keep falling until they hit bottom.
The original video of the Pirates of the Mississippi’s “A Street Man Named Desire” (Liberty, 1992) is long forgotten but the song’s message is one of the most powerful ever to come out of Nashville.
Even though the lyric is now dated (“Saddam Hussein still has a job but I don’t…”), the anger and desperation of the once-proud hard-working family man portrayed in the song is enough to bring this writer to tears.
I include it as an Honorable Mention for those whose hard times have only gotten harder. There but for the grace of God…
1) Aaron Tippin – “Working Man’s Ph.D.” (RCA, 1993)
Aaron Tippin was a welder, a mechanic, a carpenter…and a commercial pilot.
He’s lived the lyrics of this song.
Released in 1993 with the economy in a recession, “Working Man’s Ph.D” was a shot in the arm for a work force facing a crisis of confidence as an increasing number of manufacturing jobs – once the backbone of the American economy – were moving offshore.
Tippin sings of the “pride, honor and dignity” of the American worker.
And while the lyrics focus on working with your hands, the message applies to anyone – man or woman – who works at a computer, in retail, or as an executive.
Take pride in what you do. Do it with all your might. And be proud of a job well-done.