Country music has thrived for years as the soundtrack to redneck America, supplying the Republican heartlands with a diet of knee-jerk jingoism that has included flag-waving anthems supporting the war on terror.
No one has moved further than Toby Keith and Darryl Worley, two of the biggest names in country music.
In 2002, Keith had a huge hit with Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, which includes the lyric: "You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A, 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass - it's the American Way."
Worley's Have You Forgotten in 2003 justified the Iraq invasion as a response to the September 11 attacks. The military liked it so much he was presented with a flag that had flown over the Pentagon.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
Now Keith says he is a lifelong Democrat and has claimed he never supported the war, while Worley has had a hit with I Just Came Back from a War, about a soldier returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Tim McGraw - the biggest contemporary country star - has a hit single with If You're Reading This, about a dead soldier's last letter home, and the Dixie Chicks, boycotted in 2003 after lead singer Natalie Maines told an audience in London: "We're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas," won five Grammy Awards this year.
The changing tone reflects a growing skepticism in heartlands that have disproportionately contributed the young soldiers who have been fighting and dying.Brian Hiatt, associate editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said: "Popular music is reflecting the culture, as it always does."
Keith's switch, however, has angered conservative country fans and anti-war activists alike. Jon Iwanski, a blogger in Chicago, said Keith had "damaged his credibility", while opponents of the war accused the singer of opportunism.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007