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Honky-Tonk Heroes and Healing Hands: Vanderbilt and Music City’s hit makers deliver perfect harmony

Apr. 2, 2012, 3:30 PM

Songwriter Harlan Howard said it best: “Country music is three chords and the truth.” Out of that simple formula has come a genre that defines the Nashville sound and its worldwide community of listeners. Where the only cure for a broken heart is to sing about it. Where tractors and trucks are the transportation of choice. Where “I should have been a cowboy” and “I’m so lonesome I could cry” are common refrains. Where family values are prized above all else.

Country music is about place (“Amarillo by Morning,” “Okie from Muskogee,” “Chattahoochee,” “Rocky Top”), and no place has loomed larger than Nashville, the site where it all began. But more than 100 years before a WSM radio announcer dubbed the town “Music City USA,” Nashville was known as the “Athens of the South,” the first Southern city to establish a public school system and the home to many colleges and universities, including Vanderbilt and its Medical Center.

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Originally published in Vanderbilt Magazine

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