All of us at FMC were saddened to hear of the passing of Congressman Howard Coble of North Carolina on Tuesday. FMC staff had the opportunity and honor of testifying in a number of hearings chaired by Rep. Coble over the years, and we always appreciated his nuanced grasp of complicated issues and his sincere concern for musicians’ interests.
Before his retirement last year, Rep. Coble was recognized at the 2014 Future of Music Honors for his work with the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet in undertaking a comprehensive review of the Copyright Act, alongside his colleagues, Reps. Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, and Jerrold Nadler.
As he reliably reminded us all in any hearing that touched on music industry issues, Rep. Coble was a passionate lover of the bluegrass and old-time country sounds of his native region, and this informed his thinking around policy. He insightfully observed that even genres and traditions with limited commercial potential reflect the unique character of our precious cultural traditions, and it’s important to take time to think about the preservation of such traditions and the people working in such genres when wrestling with any music industry issue.
As we look forward to future conversations with congress, we’ll all miss Rep. Coble’s wit, his intellectual curiosity, his courtesy and civility in the face of heated controversies, and his impeccable fashion sense (who could forget his trademark colorful madras jackets?).
If there’s any one moment we’ll remember Rep Coble for, it’s an event last November celebrating his thirty years of service sponsored by the Creative Rights Caucus. A trio of teen brothers and bluegrass virtuosos called Sleepy Man Banjo Boys were invited to entertain the guests, and while many in the room took to the usual DC practice of networking and dishing about the latest legislative wheeling and dealing. Rep. Coble pulled up a chair and took a front row seat, and simply delighted in the music. After all, that’s what it’s all about.