A memorial to Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed in racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. Photo: Joe Flood

Charles Kader: America seems unable to drive Old Dixie Down long after Civil War ended

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is one of the most powerful and recognizable songs in music to Can the racially-charged events in Charlottesville, Virginia, be understood through one of the most legendary songs in rock music? Charles Kader, a citizen of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, offers some perspective on America's never-ending wars:
Watching the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia which led to the senseless death of a young activist and countless injuries to others brought many memories to my mind. As an amateur historian, I have a sense of how things ended up in such dire straits. Are there parallels between resurrecting fallen political movements like the southern Confederate states and Native American history? Can such history be cherry-picked to make it easier to live with today or is a clean sweep needed to satisfy the most ardent voices being heard?

Being born in northwestern Pennsylvania does not provide particular insight to revivalist Southern historical groups, but the popular culture feeds the awareness of anyone curious about the world around them. One such compelling ode was the 1969 Robbie Robertson (Mohawk) song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, most memorably performed, in my opinion, by his group The Band in their 1976 farewell concert, The Last Waltz. Robertson also shared a Jewish heritage through his late father, so he is an unlikely guide, but for his close friendship with the drummer and vocalist, the Arkansas-born Levon Helm. Under Helm’s geographical mentorship of the Deep South (for which I give Helm a song co-writing credit), Robertson crafted a haunting narrative of loss and realization that has been covered by many other artists since it was first performed.

And although I was focused on alternative music at this stage of my life, I found myself ordering a cassette copy of The Band’s Greatest Hits from the mail-to-home Columbia House music service. It was the only song on the album that interested me at first, but I played both sides many times, often out of laziness to rewind the medium. Now I count myself as a huge The Band devotee, but it started with this one song.

Read More on the Story:
Charles Kader: Understanding Charlottesville: Driving Old Dixie Down (Indian Country Media Network August 30, 2017)