This week as Tim McGraw signed on to headline a New Jersey benefit concert, allegedly espousing increased gun control, he reminded fans and the public alike that he is a country star with convictions. His stance is contrary to the typical gun-friendly viewpoint of country artists and fans. In the process, McGraw has come into the cross-hairs of critics who question his patriotism.
McGraw’s involvement in a concert benefiting Sandy Hook Promise (an organization dedicated to protecting children from gun violence), comes understandably. His fiddle player is friends with a family that lost a first grader in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, that left 20 children and six teachers dead. In a statement to the Washington Post, McGraw said that he saw very personally how this tragedy affected families, and he wanted to do something for the recovery of the community.
This sentiment has been seen as hypocritical by gun rights and second amendment advocates, that are stereotypically country music fans. They have labeled the summer’s Sandy Hook event as a “gun control fundraiser.” Another country artist booked for the event, Billy Currington, has withdrawn from the concert bill due to the backlash from negative publicity. Currington and newbie, Chase Bryant, are booked for opening slots on the rest of Tim McGraw’s summer tour. Currington announced his withdrawal in a press release, saying that although he supports both the Sandy Hook community and second amendment rights, he is choosing to withdraw from this particular event and focus on the rest of the tour.
McGraw, obviously a country celebrity who follows his convictions, is doubling down on his support for the cause. He purported to be a gun owner and guns-rights supporter, but felt there needed to be emphasis on “education and safety,” especially when it comes to the safety of children. He marveled that anyone could disagree with the cause of protecting the children.
McGraw is no stranger to progressive causes, having publicly supported Barack Obama in both presidential elections, and even humorously suggesting at one time that Bill Clinton should be crowned king. Although the entertainment world typically leans to the left, the genre of country music has traditionally been more oriented toward conservative causes and ideology. McGraw’s stances have not seemed to squelch ticket or record sales, as his concert tours have some of the best gross-sales figures in the business. Industry insiders suggest this might indicate a movement toward the center on the part of the country demographic on social issues of race, gender orientation and family values. They point to the CMA song of the year award going to Kacey Musgraves’, “Follow Your Arrow,” which espouses same-sex affection and marijuana use, as a softening of historically rigid values.
McGraw’s Sandy Hook participation might be the focus of this current criticism, but his family-centric lifestyle would seem to demonstrate where his real values lie. Although recently selected by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People,” he is more liable to be seen at a local football game, as the father of three teenage girls, rather than out partying with celebrities. Married to country star, Faith Hill, for 17 years, McGraw relishes being an “un-cool,” but dependable father. He claims that his sobriety of five years has made his successful marriage even better.
With his planned performance at the Xfinity Theater in Hartford, Connecticut in July, McGraw hopes to raise awareness and promote the protection of the most precious commodity – the children. Paying no attention to would-be detractors, Tim McGraw is a country star with convictions.
By Chris Marion