Credit: Alex Marshall

The Devastation and future of Nashville: When a storm becomes a song

On Tuesday morning, just after midnight, Nashville was hit by a deadly tornado with winds up to 165mph. This is the most devastating storm that the music city has seen in almost ten years. Early reports showed at least twenty-four fatalities, some of which were children.

Nashville is at the heart of many music fans from around the world and it is the epicentre of Country music, the soundtrack of the working class. Its roots run deep in American culture with prolific historical places such as the Grand 0le Opry, Tootsies, the Johnny Cash museum and countless others. The once much smaller community got its name in honour of Francis Nash, an American revolution war general in 1784 and was chartered as a city in 1806. Nashville grew and prospered and in the 20th century it became the hub for American traditional music and of course, Country.

The popularity of the city shot up in the 1930’s as the Grand Ole Opry radio shows grew in numbers and the city became more industrialised. Early artists such as Hank Williams defined and solidified the sound of Nashville and went on to inspire artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, George Jones, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, artists that went on to push the boundaries and change the way that the world viewed an entire art form. It’d be hard to picture the world, in terms of music, without the significant effects that the city and people of Nashville have had, it’d be impossible to imagine an alternative. Almost every genre owes a debt of gratitude to Nashville, for in part, some of the most fundamental components and roots that manifested in Country later evolved to create things such as Rock N Roll, Pop and Hip-Hop.

Due to its incomprehensible yet impressive impact on music world wide, Nashville boasts a huge music industry with major labels, bars, clubs, press and venues. Its tourism brings in millions, as does its farming, agriculture, religious centres and industrial manufacturing but at the heart of the city are its people. Many small businesses were destroyed by this week’s tornado along with homes, vehicles and community areas. The storm approached so rapidly that people weren’t able to take the necessary precautions to protect their valuables and in some cases, their loved ones.

Many people, whose careers were made by Nashville and supported by its people have reciprocated that with offers of reparation efforts and endorsed crowd funding. Kid Rock, Chris Stapleton, Jake Owen, Ryan Upchurch, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves and Dolly Parton are among hundreds of celebrities who have ties to Nashville and have expressed their condolences.

What happens next for Nashville was written already in the many catalogues of music that was birthed there, and the next wave of music will reinforce that. Through tenacity and perseverance Nashville and the art that it is synonymous with will rebuild the city and further solidify its reputation as a unique culture, one that can transform what is bleak and hopeless into something beautiful and awe inspiring, when the storm becomes a song.