The state’s who’s-who list of musical superstars is rich. Other states should be jealous. The uninformed might be shocked to learn the common trait between Hank Williams Jr., Nat King Cole, Tammy Wynette, Percy Sledge, the Commodores, Sam Phillips, W.C. Handy, Wilson Pickett and a lengthy compilation of other talented musicians and producers.
They’re all in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Nevertheless, at the hall’s home in Tuscumbia, the recent years of recession and slow recovery haven’t been kind. State funding has declined. The hall’s bank accounts have suffered. Operating hours have been reduced. And last year, the state Legislature fixed holes in Alabama’s fiscal dyke by cutting all funding to many of the state’s cultural and historical sites.
As a recent story in the Florence TimesDaily explained, that legislative decision eventually left the Alabama Music Hall of Fame with $247 in the bank and its power turned off because it owed the power company $3,600.
“The state of Alabama has this very special legacy,” said Hall of Fame Board Member Bill Nugent. “We just can’t lose it.”
He’s right. Alabama needs to spread the word about its musical heritage and its place within the larger picture of American culture.
The Legislature’s deep swath of budget cuts during the last two years makes that difficult, of course — and don’t consider this a suggestion that funding a music hall of fame is more important than paying for public education, Medicaid or state prisons.
That said, we’re nonetheless pleased that a partnership between the hall and Northwest-Shoals Community College may prove to be the magic solution. The hall’s board has accepted the college’s letter of intent to buy the hall, with the college assuming the facility’s day-to-day operation. The college will use the hall to train its business students, the TimesDaily reported.
Two points about this partnership are worth mentioning: (1.) These types of collaboration will prove invaluable for cash-strapped state agencies as long as the Legislature refuses to consider new forms of revenue; and (2.) a stable and improved Alabama Music Hall of Fame is something this state should consider a cultural priority.
Alabama isn’t a large state, it doesn’t have overflowing coffers, and its history is often told through the lens of the civil rights movement. Yet, when the state has an altogether positive story to tell — such as its music — and it doesn’t tell it with gusto, who will?