Real women in country music

7 Jan

So the other day I was talking about country singers from the past that I like, but I only mentioned the guys. Today I’m going to talk about the ladies. I figure I’m going to do a contrast and compare type of post today, sort of like what we all did in junior high school.Except I hated contrast and compare in junior high so I am going to do this my way, since really, this is my own little school of music and your only homework is to listen to these songs and gather your own thoughts. Pretty easy, right? I think so.
So to begin with, I am going to talk about just solo singers, one from the past and one who is popular today, and then do the same with a group of singers/musicians, just to mix things up.
First up, the solo ladies, I have picked two women to talk about, one I’m not so crazy about but have respect for and one that I love, and have loved since I was old enough to understand what music is. The two women I am talking about are Taylor Swift and Patsy Cline.
I am not a fan of Taylor Swift. Lets get this clear. I do however, respect her for the success she has achieved from doing what she loves. While I admit, there are many artists out there that I don’t like, I try to retain respect for them because they put themselves out there and have made it, which is more than can be said for a lot of people in any vocation. I am particularly disgusted by people who seem to think that being a fan of one artist means you have to loathe and trash every other artist in the genre. It’s a big world out there, people. A lot of different ears to listen to a lot of different music. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it crap, even Mumford and Sons has some fans out there. So you will not see me bashing Taylor Swift today, I just don’t have her songs on my iPod, but I wish her all the success in the world. I have had a ridiculously hard time trying to figure out what song of Ms. Swifts to use in this post simply because I am not very familiar with her work, just what I have heard on the radio really, so I am going to go with a type of torch song, as it will correlate better with the song I chose from Patsy Cline. If there is a newer, better torch-style song from Taylor Swift, which I’m sure there are, forgive me for not using it, I can’t keep up to date with every single artist out there, so I chose this one:

It’s not the worst song, it’s just not my style when it comes to country torch songs. While I know that there are plenty of other women in country music today, Taylor Swift is the one that seems to get the most attention for her talent and seems to show the most promise in the long run as far as songwriting and recording goes.

Absolutely untouchable

Now, on to Patsy Cline. There still isn’t a female voice in any genre that can really compare to Patsy Cline for me. If I could have even an eighth of the talent she had, I would be on my way to the top. She was uh-may-zing when she got behind a microphone and people back in the late 50s and early 60s thought so too, because she was also one of the first country singers to become a crossover success. Her first single “Walkin’ After Midnight”  reached no. 2 on the country chart and no 12 on the pop chart. No small feat, especially for a female singer back then. Now I know that you are probably thinking, well, Taylor Swift writes her own songs, didn’t Patsy have songwriters? Yes she did, but who was writing the songs makes absolutely no difference, because when you hear “The Cline” singing those songs, you are living her pain, or her joy, right there with her even almost 50 years after her death. Patsy Cline’s legacy will go on long after Taylor Swift and you and me are gone, simply because she set a standard so high that no one has been able to touch it yet. Anyone that tries, really only sound as if they are just copying her. Often imitated, but never duplicated, here is the great Patsy Cline:

For those of you wondering about her headband and heavy eyebrow makeup, this performance footage you saw was filmed after a near fatal car accident, and were necessary for her to feel comfortable on stage or in front of a camera. That is what a real performer is all about; the show must go on. As a personal note, my grandmother, who passed away from cancer a few years ago, also loved Patsy

Cline as much as I do, so to see me well up a little when I listen to her sing isn’t surprising as Patsy’s

music still represents my grandmother to me in a way, a part of her that can never be taken away from me for as long as I live and love. I love you, Nanny, wherever you are I know you are listening to Patsy Cline too, maybe even hanging out with her, up in that great gig in the sky.

So now that I talked about two solo ladies, I will move on to a couple of groups. While these groups may contain guys, the main focus is on the women, so it still counts to me. First up is the Dixie Chicks. I know that awhile back they received a lot of negative attention for having an opinion about our last president that for some strange reason wasn’t shared by others, but that is in the past and we are talking about music anyways. So although I am not a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, I don’t think they are terrible, and as a musical group are still very respected on the music scene so they are the group of women of today that I want to put the spotlight on. I am going to go with “Goodbye Earl” as the song and video, just because it is a great song, and the Chicks have a story to tell, which is really their knack if I do say so. So all political discussions and trouble aside, here is what it’s all about, music:

There, it wasn’t really so bad listening to a song without judging the opinions of the artist, now was it? It really bothers me when people will close themselves off to great music of any kind because they don’t agree with an opinion. Think about it, do you and your significant other have the same opinions on everything? No? But you still  sleep in the same room at night? How crazy is that!

Now, to end this post, I went with a group, really a family group, that to be perfectly honest helped make country music what it is today. Without this family, country music may not have gotten the foothold that it did back in the 30s and 40s to make it become the most American style of music we have today. Really when you think about it, and I have read the books and done the research, country music is probably the first truly American genre of music that can be traced specifically to early American regions such as the Appalachians and other southern areas of our country. Before you jump all over my comment with “What about rock n’ roll?” or ” What about R&B?” let me remind you that country, or hillbilly music as it was called in the beginning,  predates jazz by a few decades, jazz being a father of both R&B and rock n’ roll while country itself  can also claim a parentage to rock n’ roll. Don’t believe me? Just look at where Elvis started in the music business and that should by itself be enough proof.

This group that I have led up to is the Carter Family, and they reigned supreme in country music from the late 20s to the early 70s  as a family band that started out singing Gospel and traditional American folk music,and contributing to the sound that would eventually become country music as we know it today. The first lineup of the family was A.P Carter, his wife Sara and her sister Maybelle, who was married to A.P’s brother Ezra.

Sara, A.P, and Maybelle with the guitar

The group disbanded in 1936 after Sara and A.P’s marriage dissolved and Sara left for California. Maybelle then enlisted her daughters, Anita, June and Helen into a new group, calling themselves “Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters”, performing until the 1970s.  That is one enduring family, and I’m sure if you have seen “Walk the Line” then you have an idea of June’s work outside of the Carter family with her husband, the great Johnny Cash. My point I suppose is that country music back then was almost like “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” except with Carter’s. They were royalty as far as music goes, and everyone today, in country music especially, can in some way or another trace their influences back to them. So if you are grateful for Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks, and even Patsy Cline, then you have this family to thank, right here:

So there you have it, country women of yesterday and today, and one group that can say they helped start it all. Tomorrow I’ll be back with the weekly visit to my video vault, and its going to be a good one too! Stay strong until then!

3 Responses to “Real women in country music”

  1. Marjorie January 7, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

    My Grandma loved Patsy, too and I have been known to bust out “Crazy” when I’m out singing karaoke. “Walking After Midnight” is my favorite by her though.

    As far as Taylor goes, she is not a great singer, but I love that she writes about her life (and lets people know that if they burn her, there will be a song about it). I suggest you take a listen to “Dear John” off of her newest album (Speak Now). It is supposedly about her “romance” with John Mayer, and the song is so clearly influenced by his style. I love it, and I think she called him out perfectly.

    Really enjoy reading your blog! Keep up the good work!

    • jessicakenney January 7, 2011 at 10:16 PM #

      Thanks Marj! “Walkin” is always a good one, my favorite Patsy song has always been Sweet Dreams, but Crazy was really a signature song of hers, so I had to use it, its just so great. I’ll be sure to check out that Taylor Swift song too, I’ve heard a lot about it. I admire her for how she gets back at exes, I really do. There isn’t a much better way to make a man sorry in the long run I think.

      • Meade Skelton September 17, 2011 at 3:52 PM #

        Hi,
        I do agree about Patsy Cline- she is great. But you also should consider Suzy Bogguss. She has the most purest voice of any modern female country singer I have ever heard. Her songs were also great choices too. She had a lot of folk and pop influences as well as real Country and Western and the real “Western” side of Country. She is truly underrated in the business.

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