Country Music… Do We Like It?
According to the dictionary, the term Country Music gained popularity in the 1940s in preference to the earlier term Hillbilly music. How strange, who wouldn’t want to listen to Hillbilly music? There was always something about “Country Music” that made me resist it. I can’t quite put my finger on it… But I’ll try.
When I was growing up there was a variety show on Television called, Hee Haw. I know, the name says it all, right? The characters on Hee Haw were probably some of the dumbest people I’ve ever seen. It both scared and scarred me in my youth.
There were other ‘Country’ shows on TV in the 60’s and 70’s like Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Waltons. (John Boy frightened most people.) They only served to repel me further from Country Music, and cement my suspicions; Country people are gross. To me, country music was just fat people with ugly clothes. Their accents made me think they drank moon shine and hunted possum. Nothing I could relate to as a teen growing up in New York.
Then it all changed… Enter Johnny Cash
Apparently, while my opinion was growing more resolute about country music, there was a whole mess of talent that I wasn’t seeing or hearing. Talent that wasn’t on my radar, like Johnny Cash, Bobby Gentry, Patsy Cline, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. (Is Jerry Lee Lewis considered country? or just crazy?) I still remember the day my dad brought home Johnny Cash’s album, Folsom Prison. There he was on the cover with beads of sweat drippin’ down the side of his face, and the music! Oh my Lord, if that didn’t stir me up, I reckon I don’t know what would? (Sorry, got a little carried away.)
Glen Campbell deserves a mention here, since he’s also amazingly talented. Gentle on my Mind, is one of my all time favorite songs. Have a listen if you want to hear a great piece of music.
Today, Country music is about “cross over” appeal. In other words, watered down country. Tim McGraw, The Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Vince Gill, though talented enough, (I don’t really know or listen to them – maybe the Dixie Chicks?) are just not as original and hard core as the above mentioned hall of famers. Taylor Swift? How can you compare her to Bobby Gentry or Johnny Cash? Well, you can’t.
I should give a shout out to Country Rock, which is it’s own category, I guess? I do like, on occasion, Charlie Daniel’s Band, Marshall Tucker, Pure Prairie League, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (The Devil Went Down To Georgia, Can’t You See, Amie, Sweet Home Alabama, and Free Bird). Great music and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Do I listen to today’s country music? No, not really. If something becomes popular and works it’s way into my world then sure, I’ll try it. But it’s not something that I’ll go out and purchase. I find most of the lyrics and melodies of today’s country music repetitive and cliche.
I’m no longer frightened by country music, but then again, Hee Haw has been off the air for 40 years.