In a recent hit song, country music superstar Brad Paisley lists the many subjects deemed inappropriate to sing about, and then asserts, “Well this is country music, and we do.” This course uses country music as a vehicle to understanding our nation’s history, and asks the question: how did this music of Depression, dispossession, and desperation, of murder, mining, and marginality, become a popular expression of mainstream America’s self-professed values and desires? We will focus on the social and cultural histories of the music’s production—the who, what, where, when and why of the music—while also learning how to “read” popular culture for what it reveals, and what it obscures, about American society.