Like most of Nashville I have no day to day, personal connection to Music Row. My only experience there was in the summer of 1977 cleaning out the basement of a flop house on 17th Avenue South. Also, like most of Nashville I do have connections that are less concrete. I have friends who moved here because of the music scene, Nashville musicians have transformed the neighborhood where I live, and I love music made in Nashville. That's how Nashville's music scene makes life great for me.
Nevertheless, it was only with passing interest that I read Ben Folds' letter regarding the potential loss of historic RCA Studio A. However, after I read his letter and reply a couple of times, looked over the owner's response and took in the commentary online, I concluded not only that Ben Folds is right but also that people outside the music business ought to back him up.
I don't know Ben Folds, so I'm not speaking for him but:
I read his letter as simply pointing out that RCA Studio A, and more generally the physical surroundings of Music Row have played an important role in the culture that made Nashville into Music City and that the loss of these physical surroundings is a real threat. I think that's correct. It's correct because these few blocks have promoted as much musical collaboration, creation and invention as any city in the nation.
So, what is special about Music Row? There are not two buildings that look identical there. It's a hodgepodge of 20th century low rise office buildings, churches, 1970's infill, and pre-Great Depression four squares and bungalows. This hodgepodge has welcomed Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe and Elvis Presley to record music - can any other city our size can boast that? I look at this hodgepodge as symbolic of the unpretentious, accessible feel that Nashville has had for at least the 50 years I've been alive. This lack of pretense is part of the feel of our City. It is important that it be maintained.
The Tennessean's editorial missed this point entirely. Ignoring how important Music Row has been to Nashville, they wrote: "Generally, we should err on the side of the preservationists, but realize that we don't live in a theme park, or a museum." This language insinuates that preservationists (including Ben Folds, I guess) are being unrealistic in their desire to preserve our past. It also insinuates that building anything means building something alive - something that betters the City. It is far from clear that construction of more condos everywhere will better Nashville or make make it easier for the next star to be born in Nashville as opposed to Austin.
The most expensive houses in Nashville are in our old neighborhoods. East Nashville has been revitalized beyond imagination in the last two decades. These examples should guide us and areas like Music Row which are woven into our history should be preserved.
#savemusicrow is not a statement against progress. It is a statement against decline. That's why Ben Folds letter matters, why he's correct and why I'm with him. #savemusicrow