Country Music

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PatsFitztrick

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While Anderson never quite duplicated that crossover worldwide phenomenon of 'Rose Garden', she racked up 14 more Top 10 hits on the country charts through to 1974, including the # 1 'How Can I Unlove You', 'You're My Man', 'Keep Me
in Mind' and 'What a Man, My Man Is'. However, hoping to cash in on more crossover success, the songs sounded more Country-pop, that was very popular at the time, giving country songs a more pop-edged sound it, by adding orchestral instruments and way over-produced sound. These songs haven't dated well and based on these objective reasons - and subjectively I just don't like them - I'm skipping these big hits and going for more enduring songs with a country flavour, even if a majority (though not all) my selections for today are covers rather than originals. If you want to check out the songs named above, they're all on youtube - but you've been warned, those smooth but trite romantic pop dirges just ain't (IMO) all that good. Here are some better ones -

'Sunday Morning Comin Down', written by an up and coming songwriter, Kris Kristofferson and now a country standard, was first recorded in 1969 by Ray Stevens before becoming a # 1 hit for Johnny Cash (see post # 341). Anderson then recorded a version - with some lyrics slightly changed to represent a female's point of view - for her top-selling # 1 1970 album "Rose Garden". This song is a marked departure from Anderson's usual repertoire of optimistic or not to serious themes that suited her personality. Though it doesn't have the rawness or sense of despair of the Cash version, it's an interesting contrast with some nice touches, including the gospel choir for the chorus, giving this song of loneliness and despair a not so desolate vibe -


'Cry' is a 1951 pop song written by Churchill Kohlman and first recorded by Ruth Casey but the biggest hit version was recorded by Johnnie Ray and The Four Lads in 1951. Ronnie Dove also had a big hit with it in 1966. Anderson had major success in with her 1972 (semi) countrified version, released, which hit # 1 in the U.S. and Canada and also charted # 16 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart. It's enduring popularity as a standard and great melody led me to include it over some of Anderson's bigger, original but more mundane country-pop hits that haven't aged as well as this -


'Listen to a Country Song' was originally recorded by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina on their 1971 album "Sittin' In", however it was first released as a single by Anderson in 1972 from her album "Listen to a Country Song" and peaked
at # 4 in the U.S and # 1 in Canada. Of course I chose to include this because it really is a country song, with country lyrics and a thoroughly country accompiament, amongst all the POP-country (capitals are deliberate) stuff Anderson
was coming out with (not that I blame her - they sold well at the time, but they've aged badly) at the time. Perhaps
she was reminding her fans - or reassuring herself - that her heart was still with more authentic country music.

The song itself hardens back to a time (but still within the memory of many country music fans in 1972), where people living in the country, often without electricity, provided there own musical entertainment - and spawned so many of our country music heroes. It also has some inventive lyrics, like rhyming Sue with jujitsu -
"... My brother Jack sneaks out from the back tryin' to get to sister Sue
Watch him closin' on the ground about turnin' around she knows a little jujitsu
.."


'Top of the World' is a 1972 song written and composed by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis and first recorded by the soft-pop group, The Carpenters, who originally intended the song to be only an album cut. Anderson covered the song in 1973 for her album "Top of the World" and was the first single released from her album, becoming the first hit version, reaching # 2. The success of Anderson's version then prompted the Carpenters to re- record an upgraded version from their original album cut, topping the US pop charts in December 1973. Anderson's also later re-recorded the song for her 2004 album, "The Bluegrass Sessions". It's another of those cheery, optimistic songs with lyrics and vibe that so suited Anderson's cheery personality -


Anderson's had a daughter with husband, Glenn Sutton, a Songwriters HoF inductee, but they were divorced in 1977, after she was promised more than a rose garden by Louisiana billionaire oilman Harold Stream III. During this marriage, she concentrated on her equestrian and fund-raising activities, but still made the upper regions of the country charts with POP-country singles such as ‘Isn’t It Always Love’ and ‘I Love How You Love Me’. This marriage produced 2 more children, before her second divorce in 1982.

Anderson remained one of the top female country singers into the 1980's. Her last top 10 record was 1984's 'You're Welcome to Tonight'. After spending time on her ranch, raising horses and participating in equestrian events, she began recording again in 1992. She was especially popular in the U.K, appearing several times at the annual international country music festival at Wembley Stadium. Anderson also starred as a country singer in "Wreck on the Highway",
a BBC TV play in 1990.

Anderson had finished her last album in 1988, concentrating on her cowgirl and horse breeding careers and raising her family when in 1992 she came out with her first album in 4 years, containing all new material. The album had a Western theme, with songs reflecting this. The title "Cowboy's Sweetheart" fitted Anderson's own personal profile as a national champion professional equestrian and horse cutter and breeder in addition to her music business. Songs included on
this album were new songs for Anderson to record, but many were cover versions, including her 1980 top 30 hit, 'Even Cowgirls Get the Blues', as well as Patsy Montana's 1935 classic Western hit, 'I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart', and Slim Whitman's version of the classic 'Red River Valley'. Pop songs with a Western theme we're also included such as Gogi Grant's 'The Wayward Wind' (a duet with Emmylou Harris) and Cole Porter's 'Don't Fence Me In'.

'Red River Valley' is a folk or cowboy (or in this case, cowgirl) song. The song was known in at least 5 Canadian provinces before 1896 and was probably composed at the time of an 1870 expedition to Manitoba's Red River Valley. It expresses the sorrow of a local woman as her soldier lover prepares to return to the east - though in Anderson's version, she has reversed the genders, so the singer is a cowgirl. What's more, Anderson turns this traditional ballad into an absolute Western swing honky tonker. Given that Anderson was also a champion real life cowgirl as well as singer, this seems
an appropriate way to finish her music -



"The Bluegrass Sessions", released in 2004, earned Anderson her first Grammy nomination in over 30 years. That same year she was arrested in Texas, for drunk driving. Anderson released a new CD of original songs entitled "Cowgirl" in 2006, all of the songs penned by her acclaimed songwriting mother, Liz Anderson, who later passed away in 2011.

Battling with alcoholism (so what lay beneath her cheery exterior?), Anderson had several more arrests for drink-driving. Following her last 2014 arrest in Nashville, she apologized to her fans in a statement and went into rehab. In 2015, she seemed poised for a comeback, releasing a gospel album to positive reviews and appeared at the CMA Music Festival. However, after being hospitalized for pneumonia following a trip to Italy, Lynn Anderson unexpectedly died of a heart attack in 2015. She was 67 years old.

In 2018, the Lynn Anderson Rose Garden was dedicated at her final resting place in Nashville, and included a rose variety named after her, In 2020, 50 years after the release of her signature song 'Rose Garden', the song was widely celebrated in country music circles, including special recognition at the CMA awards. A special pink vinyl edition of the song was also released.

When the history next returns, it will be with a living legend of American music and without doubt one of the greatest (and I don't need to add "country" here) - recently named by the BBC as the world's most popular celebrity.
Love your work, Prof. Are you into Fred Eaglesmith?
 

Professor Knowall

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Love your work, Prof. Are you into Fred Eaglesmith?
I confess he hadn't really come to my attention - about the only song I had taken notice of was 'I Like Trains' ... because I do like trains. But thanks to your great post (# 544), you set me right about his authentic music, so much so that I now have him on my shortlist to cover, if I get through to the eighties - you've already done much of the groundwork, which I'll pretty much rehash (acknowledging the source of course), should this project get that far.
 

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Osho

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Not often we see a Chemnitzer concertina being played.
Is that what it is? I was going to refer to it as a piano accordion, but decided not to as I wasn't really sure what it was. Great affect in the song though, I think the studio version is a better listen, but this live one really captures David Eugene's accompanying leg movements :)
 

Professor Knowall

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One thing I keep drawing attention to in this history has been the frequent dire childhood rural poverty of the vast majority of the country heroes covered so far - and how it instilled within them a fierce ambition to do what it takes
to escape their poverty and rise to top, to have their share of fortune, to keep the wolf of poverty well way from their newly guilded doors. This included changing their musical styles if necessary in line with public taste, to ensure they hit the charts (in complete contrast to Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons, who, coming from very wealthy, privileged backgrounds, pursued their own musical visions, regardless of public acceptance or charting success, with Van Zandt in particular seeming to seek out poverty over success. But today brings possibly the most singlemindely determined and ambitious - and amongst the smartest and most talented of musicians, who, emerging from the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, first became a country star after making her Grand Ole Opry debut at age just 12, then much later on a pop icon and finally an American legend (officially recognised as such by the Library of Congress). Her career still ain't over.

Dolly Parton (that's actually her real name) was born in 1946, the fourth of 12 children in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee in a one-room cabin without electricity. The family listened to the Grand Ole Opry on a battery-powered radio. Coming from deep Appalachia, music was an integral part of life for those who, like the Partons, struggled to make a hard living. Her mother was a singer who taught Dolly to sing gospel music along with the centuries old Elizabethan ballads her ancestors had brought to America and preserved in the isolated valley hamlets. Several of Dolly’s 11 siblings were musicians and some worked for a time in her family band.

Parton's sharecropping family struggled to survive throughout her childhood, and she was often ridiculed for her poverty (later to inspire her favourite song), but music soothed the daily grind. Though her farming father didn't play, her half-Cherokee mother played guitar and her preacher grandpa, Jake Owens, was a fiddler and songwriter (his 'Singing His Praise' was recorded by star, Kitty Wells). At age 7, Dolly's uncle, musician Bill Owens, recognising her already precocious talent, gave her a guitar, and within 3 years, she became a regular on a Knoxville radio country music hour show. Over the next 2 years, her career steadily increased, and in 1959, at age just 12, she fulfilled her first career ambition when she made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry; the following year, at age 13, she recorded her first single, 'Puppy Love'.

At age 14 in 1961, Parton signed to Mercury Records, but her 1962 debut single, 'It's Sure Gonna Hurt' bombed, and
the label promptly dropped her. She continued attending high school, playing snare drum in the school band and also played lead and rythm guitar, banjo and even the difficult autoharp, amongst other instruments. Just one day after Dolly graduated high school in 1964 she boarded the Nashville bus, determined to make it as a singing star. She first stayed with Bill Owens. Over the couple of years, they pitched songs across Nashville with no real success and she even cut
some pop songs (which were later reissued on budget-line labels).

Parton was 18 in 1964 and had just moved into a cheap rented room above a Nashville laundromat when a 21 year old Carl Dean, driving past in a pick-up truck, spotted her just out the front, promptly stopped, introduced himself and asked her out for dinner (which turned out to be the maccas drive-thru). They married in 1966 against the wishes of her record label, fearing marriage the marriage would hamper the singer's career, but they agreed to keep it a secret. Dean had no interest in music, and after attending a Dolly concert, told her he would never attend another. Given their youth, different interests, Dolly's subsequent rise to stardom and the really high failure rate of musician marriages, it was inevitable this marriage would come to and end sooner or later - but 57 years after they first met, that hasn't happened yet, they're still together.

In 1965, Parton's second single, a bubblegum popsong, 'Happy, Happy Birthday Baby', nearly made the charts. In 1966,
two of Parton's and Owens' written songs - 'Put It Off Until Tomorrow' and 'The Company You Keep' to the Top 10.
Parton’s pivotal career moment came in 1967, in the form of a phone call from the popular TV series "The Porter
Wagoner Show"
. Wagoner, a flashy-dressing traditional country singer (see posts # 430-432), was looking to replace
his duet partner Norma Jean. As a team, Wagoner and Parton became immediate audience favorites. Her over the top outfits, huge blonde hair and angelic voice played off perfectly against Wagoner’s cornpoke humour and old-fashioned country sensibility. RCA Records signed Parton as both Wagoner’s duet partner (see post # 432) and as a solo artist, allowing her to record country instead of pop, set the stage for her breakthrough single 'Dumb Blonde'. Released early
in 1967, the record climbed to # 24.

Parton’s breakthrough hit is the perfect introduction to the "beauty with brains" persona that would serve her so well
for the next 5 decades - though, as became ever more apparent as her career progressed, beneath any "dumb blonde" facade, was about the sharpest, most savvy mind in country music history. In an era when female country singers were largely cast as passive victims of circumstance (which has also just made a comeback), Parton’s breezy delivery of this proto-feminist hit was an early indication of her gifts as an interpretive singer. Giving her first major TV performance on the Porter Wagoner show in 1967 at age of 21, she already looks every inch the star -
"... Just because I'm blonde / Don't think I'm dumb / Cause this dumb blonde ain't nobody's fool..."


The title track from her second studio album, 'Just Because I'm A Woman' is a sharper, angrier cousin to 'Dumb Blonde'. Written in response to her Dean's negative reaction to learning that Dolly was no virgin before they met (which was still an expectation in the bible-belt South of 1968), the song points an accusing finger at the double standards of many men at the time – considered a somewhat daring subject for the highly traditionalist US country scene, but still got to # 17. As ever though, Parton stops short of really haranguing her audience (unlike Taylor Swift with her just released 10 minute whiny rant) – Dolly's song hints at the possibility of mutual understanding and reconciliation -


Today, it must be hard to believe that mainstream (as decided by the few major companies) country music - with its
rock and hip-hop collaborations and vapid songs about beer, parties, pick-up trucks, and more beer - used to notoriously tap dark themes of loneliness, addiction, rejection and grief (but just scroll through this history for dozens of examples). 'Down From Dover' is old-school country, one of the darkest songs you’ll ever hear. A tragic tale of an unwed mother-to-be awaiting the return of her faithless lover, it originally appeared on Parton’s 1970 album "The Fairest of Them All" before being revisited 31 years later for the "Little Sparrow" album in 2001. Parton’s voice perfectly captures the naivety of the trusting protagonist and her rising despair as she realises the man she’s pinned her hopes on isn’t coming back for her.

Parton’s soprano mourns as she tells the tale of the pregnant young girl, jilted by the father and turned away by her family. With nowhere to turn and nothing to cling to but the folorn hope her lover will return from Dover, the baby is stillborn. And oh yeah, the father still isn’t coming home. Ouch. 'Down From Dover' is Parton’s songwriting at its most visceral, humane and affecting, a story song in the grand country tradition that starts sad and only becomes sadder.
Her ability to paint the emotions of her protagonists is richly on display -


Parton can craft songs that depress the hell out of you (in a good country way), then lift you right back up again on
the next track. The impressive diversity of her epic 3,000+ song catalog attests to this. Though not an original, Dolly’s cover of this classic Jimmie Rodgers hit from the 1930 (see post # 121) is unique in every way. She grew up with this song being a family favourite. It's also perfectly suited to her high-soprano yodel, giving her the opportunity to relish
her pride in her Appalachian up-bringing while showing off her vocal strengths. This became Dolly's first major hit, reaching # 3 in 1970 -


Released in 1970, this was Dolly's first taste of (of 25 so far) # 1 hits. A great example of her brand of storytelling, the song is about a young girl who dares to visit the home of a local recluse, who has a reputation for being mean and hostile to others. She is first and foremost a storyteller, and "Joshua" is an entire soap opera drama told all within 3 minutes. ... and if you can't detect the obvious influence of Johnny Cash, both in the narrative singing style and the guitar backing, just check out 'My Name Is Sue' (post # 341) -


So having seen Dolly Parton, like so many others in this history, rise from obscure, abject rural poverty but a musically rich Appalachian background to having her first # 1 hit in 1970, helped by her star billing on Porter Wagoner's TV show, we'll leave off for today and exploe her career advance into the 1970's tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

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The early to mid 1970's was the most creatively fertile period of Dolly Parton’s country music career. She was voted the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in both 1975 and 1976. This period also produced Parton's personal favourite song, her now most critically acclaimed album and what's widely regarded as her best song.

We start with Parton's all time favourite song (as she always says when performing it). Parton’s youth in a dirt poor family of 12 kids in rural Appalachia shaped her and provided her with inspiration for her storied songwriting career, but 'Coat of Many Colours' is the crown jewel of her early work. As an example of country music’s oft-mentioned penchant for story songs and clever lyricism, 'Coat of Many Colors' has both in spades.

No doubt inspired by Loretta Lynn's great autobiographical 1970 hit 'Coal Miner's Daughter', it's taken from real life.
When growing up in poverty (even worse than the Appalachian's impoverished standards), her destitute but resourceful mother once sewed Parton a coat from a number of rags that had been given to the family. As she sewed the coat from the various rags and scraps, she told Parton the Bible story of Joseph, his 11 brothers and his coat of many colors. But when she wore it to school, she was mocked by the other kids, as kids do, who couldn't understand why it was special
to her. A play on the coat the biblical Joseph’s father bestows upon him, it's multi-coloredness is a thing of necessity, not novelty, but young Parton doesn’t appreciate the difference. All she knows is her mother made it as she told her the story and that’s all that matters. The actual coat now resides in the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood -
“... But they didn’t understand it, and I tried to make them see / One is only poor, only if they choose to be /
Now it's true we had no money, but I was rich as I could be / In my coat of many colors my momma made for me.”
-


In 1973 Parton released what is now regarded as her most near-perfect album, "My Tennessee Mountain Home", a bittersweet look back at a life and a tradition she was bound on leaving. The cover is a picture of the cabin in which she grew up; the songs, especially the title cut, are a matter-of-fact tribute to a people and a vanishing (now vanished) way
of life. “I wanted to be free,” she told Rolling Stone in 1977. “I had my songs to sing, I had an ambition and it burned inside me. It was something I knew would take me out of the mountains. I knew I could see worlds beyond the Smoky Mountains.” The song itself is very close to her heart because it tells the story of that place where she grew up. Many of the best country songs includes a lot of angst, and that’s certainly true with this one as well. That said, she talks about always being able to go back home and her memories of finding that special place where everything is always copacetic -
"Sittin' on the front porch on a summer afternoon / In a straightback chair on two legs, leans against the wall /
Watch the kids a' playin' with June bugs on a string / And chase the glowin' fireflies when evenin' shadows fall
..." -


If 'Coat Of Many Colours' is Parton's favourite song, surely 'Jolene' is her best. The track about the femme fatale figure
is deservedly Parton's best-known single, and it has endured in American culture despite the 1974 # 1 country hit not crossing over to the pop charts, with Dolly still considered at that time as being strictly country. In the song, the singer fears that an absolutely stunning but cruel woman will steal away the one love of her life. According to Dolly, the song
was inspired by a red-headed bank clerk who flirted with her husband Carl Dean at their local branch around the time
they were newly married (though in real life, Dolly stepped in assertively, unlike the helpless narrator in the song).

The scene to the drama of this song is set in the opening stanza, where the stark line -"... Please don't take him just because you can ...", is, to me, reminiscent of that immortal Johnny Cash li e in 'Folsom Prison Blues' of shooting a man
in Reno "... just to watch him die...". The key to the enduring appeal of 'Jolene' lies in its almost erotic description of the ultimate temptress. Instead of the usual female method of slagging off at her rival, the singer admits just how irresistible her nemesis is -
"... Your beauty is beyond compare / With flaming locks of auburn hair / With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring / Your voice is soft like summer rain /And I cannot compete with you / Jolene
..."
Who wouldn't want to be with this Jolene? Even the singer sounds like she's sexually attracted to her (a case of don't choose my husband, choose me?).

It’s stripped-down and bare, the bristling acoustic guitars layered beneath are frantic, methodical, and uneasy - just like the song’s pleading desperation of the protagonist. It’s not a story or perspective we’re used to seeing - a woman pleading with another not to steal her man away, even though she’s fully capable of doing so. It’s a vulnerable, humiliating thing to admit - that someone else could easily steal your lover away should they simply choose to - a manifestation of insecurity, laid bare in a sincere, unflinching admission. It’s that stark, cold nature of Parton’s perspective that grabs you - her best-loved and most-covered song paints a vivid picture of a woman fighting a battle she knows she’s already lost. She knows she can’t prevent her husband from leaving her, so her last line of defence is a desperate appeal to the mercy of the other woman. The haunting, desolate pitch of the singer’s final note is shot through with despair, suggesting her pleas have fallen on deaf ears -
“... I had to have this talk with you / My happiness depends on you / And whatever you decide to do, Jolene


As Dolly continued her appearances on the Porter Wagoner TV show, she became increasingly successful and soon began to eclipse Wagoner’s own star. One of Parton's greatest songwriting feats was 1974's 'I Will Always Love You', a touching tribute to Wagoner after she made the decision that she needed to leave his show in order to keep advancing her career. “... I was trying to get away on my own because I had promised to stay with Wagoner’s show for 5 years. I had been there for 7. And we fought a lot. We were very much alike. We were both stubborn. We both believed that we knew what was best for us. Well, he believed he knew what was best for me, too, and I believed that I knew more what was best for me at that time… He just wasn’t listening to my reasoning for my going...” she explained in 2011.

She went home and wrote 'I Will Always Love You' about her professional relationship with Wagoner. “It’s saying, ‘Just because I’m going don’t mean I won’t love you. I appreciate you and I hope you do great and I appreciate everything you’ve done, but I’m out of here. I took it in the next morning. I said, ‘Sit down, Porter. I’ve written this song, and I
want you to hear it.’ So I did sing it. And he was crying. He said, ‘That’s the prettiest song I ever heard. And you can
go, providing I get to produce that record.’ And he did, and the rest is history
.” -

The heartfelt track topped the country chart in 1974, and soon after she got a call from Elvis Presley's manager, saying that Elvis wanted to cover it, but only if they could buy out all the rights. Dolly showed her acumen by not selling the rights - and sure enough, it later became a record-breaking international sensation in 1992 when it was famously covered by Whitney Houston for the soundtrack of "The Bodyguard", with Dolly collecting a large fortune in royalties. What to me is even more stunning about 'I Will Always Love You' is that Parton wrote it on the very same day she penned her greatest song, 'Jolene' - 2 classics in one inspired day.

Almost a cousin of Somewhere Over the Rainbow', 'Parton's, "River of Happiness" is an optimistic, reassuring song
about turning the corner on your bad days - and one that seems to coincide with Dolly's general outlook on life. With
steel guitars and tropical rhythms, this track from 1974's "Jolene" album proves that Dolly is as capable of writing bright, chipper tunes as she is writing devastating ones -
"... We'll walk in the sunshine, we'll laugh and we'll sing / And dance to the tune that our happiness brings ..." -


So we leave off for now in 1974 with Dolly Parton having ascended to be o e of the biggest country music stars, showing her independence and ambition in leaving the Porter Wagoner TV show to strike out on her own, and in the midst of her most creative period ... but even greater success lay ahead.
 

Professor Knowall

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Yeah, these fellows popped up when I was searching for alt country bands, good musicianship, some subtlety, and the lads clearly have a sense of humour.
They're actually pretty good for Canadians! They've been seen before somewhere back in this thread. Though both numbers here are well worth a listen, I really like is their interpretation of the old country classic standard 'You Are
My Sunshine' here - really emphasising the darkness of the lyrics, which are usually overlooked - as discussed back
on post # 152).
 

Professor Knowall

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There's a big double-arched bridge (kinda like 2 Sydney Harbour bridges placed end-to-end), spanning the mile wide Mississippi River from Memphis to Arkansas. Thanks to its twin arches, it's called the Dolly Parton Bridge (ok - that's not its official name - I dunno what that is and I doubt anyone else in Memphis does either - everyone just calls it the Dolly Parton Bridge). I can't do this history without mention of Dolly's doctoring of her own body. Despite old photos showing she was far from ugly in her youth, she obviously had some phobia about her body and appearance. She started on her image in her teens with the big blonde wig, and through constant minor maintenance and occasional major alterations to her face and, of course, the "enhancements" of her famous twin assets, modelling her appearance on a prostitute in the town where she grew up.

All of this body fabrication, which Dolly has never hidden or denied - quite the opposite in fact, has led to many jokes about her, and also by her, over the decades, more than once saying - "... It takes a lot of money to look this cheap." The bottom line is - all this stuff Dolly has done to her appearance, for better or for worse, shouldn't detract from her very real immense talent and her accomplishments and achievements in both song-writing and performing over 6 decades. As she also once said when a rude reporter asked if there was any part of her that wasn't fake - "I may look fake but I'm real where it counts." Now on with her music -

One of Parton's signature tracks and the title track from her 1974 album, 'Love is Like a Butterfly' was her 4th # 1. Dolly later used the song as the opening theme for her 1976 TV show Dolly! It's a feathery, extra-light, fluffy, sweet number that dips into the folk realm, painting a rich portrait of the shifting nature of romance -
"Love is like a butterfly / As soft and gentle as a sigh / The multicolored moods of love are like its satin wings ..." -


A clever metaphor for the baggage we bring into relationships as we grow older, 'The Bargain Store' was the title track
for her 1975 album, and gave Dolly yet another # 1. An unfailingly sympathetic songwriter with a keen eye for detail, Parton’s character-study songs are sharply observed vignettes of lives shot through with disappointment and hardship,
but always with a grain of hope. This is another track that highlights Parton's wit and her ability to carry a metaphor through an entire song.

The song uses second-hand items at a discount shop as a metaphor for a woman emotionally damaged by an uncaring relationship. She works her metaphor well as she puts her human wares on display and sings plaintively and fetchingly to a tidy acoustic backing. However, the song caused controversy on its 1975 release and was dropped from many country stations at the time, when programmers mistook the line - "... you can easily afford the price ..." - as a reference to prostitution. However, that was an overly simplistic reading of a song about the emotional compromises a woman is
forced to make as the romantic dreams of youth give way to adult disillusionment -
"Why you take for instance this old broken heart / If you will just replace the missing parts /
You would be surprised to find how good it really is / Take it and you never will be sorry that you did
..." -


Parton has a gift for writing sweet love songs that manage not to quite fall all the way into the saccharine category,
and 1974's 'Highlight of My Life' is a perfect example of that, with it's solid traditional country accompiament. This is
my partner's favourite Dolly Parton song, she just loves singing it while I'm around -
"... You're the one I always think about / And you're the one I couldn't live without /
And you have always been my guiding light / Darling, you're the highlight of my life
..." -


Throughout her career, while Parton has balanced songs about love and romance with tunes about straight out lust, sex, cheating and the like. But she's also written many gospel influenced songs of her faith and God, so I thought I'd better include the best of these - 1975's # 2 hit, 'The Seeker', which blends twanging guitar with gospel-inflected vocals to create an uplifting sound -
"... Cause I am a seeker / And you are a keeper / You are the leader / Won't you show me the way? ..." -


Dolly's first album after declaring her independence from Wagoner was 1977’s "New Harvest, First Gathering", which yielded the #11 single “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” Another song Parton penned about her creative split with Porter Wagoner, it carries that feeling of precariousness that comes with making a major change. But despite that, it carries an overall tone of optimism -
"... I've been looking for the sunshine / You know I ain't seen it in so long /
But everything's gonna work out just fine / And everything's gonna be all right
.." -


Tomorrow we will step into the late 1970's, with Dolly now perhaps past her creative prime - but yet to attain the peak of her popularity, which still lay ahead of her, as her music changes its direction.
 
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Professor Knowall

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It's 1977 and Dolly Parton, after a decade of song-writing, performing and recording, has climbed up to replace Lynn Anderson and even Loretta Lynn to become the pre-eminent female country music entertainer. But she didn't stop their, deciding to alter her sound to appeal to a broader and bigger, pop audience - even at the risk of alienating some of her hard core country music base. She succeeded all too well, though in the late 1970's she still retained country music elements in her music to a greater or lesser extent, as we shall now see.

Although most of Parton’s hits were written by the country legend herself, this 1977 single was written by husband-
and-wife songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Originally intended for Brenda Lee, 'Here You Come Again' was selected to broaden Parton’s pop appeal - despite her initial hesitation. “She said a monkey could record this song and have a hit with it,” her manager Sandy Gallin once said. Parton was eventually swayed into recording the number, but
she put her foot down before letting the production stray too far from the country twang that built her. She insisted
upon adding a steel guitar to the mix, spurring producer Gary Klein to hire the renowned Al Perkins for the additional instrumentals. The song saw success in both formats, clinching the #1 spot on the country charts for 5 weeks - but
also crossing over, climbing to #3 on the pop charts.

The genius of the song - one of the few that Parton didn't pen herself - is in the key changes that match the mood of her schizophrenic feelings. On the first verse, Parton’s agony is palpable over the fact that the object of her unrequited love has shown up again. Next, the key changes over the chorus, which is brimming with hope. As Parton bemoans - “... All you gotta do is smile that smile / And there go all my defenses ...", the progression gets brighter and warmer. Parton returns to the verse again, as if coming back down to earth - but not all the way. Each verse is a musical half-step higher than the last, which the listener interprets as more and more joyful. The song begins with loathing and finishes swept up in the ecstasy of attraction - on the same lyrics and same chord progression, but now in a higher key. It doesn’t just describe a familiar experience, but aurally feels like one. Parton’s effortlessly genuine soprano sells it, kaleidoscoping through agony, optimism, trepidation, and infatuation -

'Here You Come Again' earned Dolly her first Grammy for best female vocal performance.

Parton was headed into the peak of her career when she released 'It's All Wrong, But It's All Right' in 1977, becoming Parton's 8th # 1 hit. A very unique entry in Dolly’s catalogue, it showcases her storytelling prowess. Certainly more scandalous than her other songs, it tells of an illicit love - but in the most beautiful way. She later admitted she was surprised that country radio embraced the song because of its frank lyric about casual sex -
"Hello, are you free tonight / I like your looks, I love your smile /
Could I use you for a while / It's all wrong, but it's all right..."



The flip side of 'It's All Wrong, But It's All Right' was 'Two Doors Down', which Parton wrote while she was staying by herself in a hotel, when she heard the sound of laughter and fun coming from another room. Before Parton released
her original as the second single from "Here You Come Again" album, Zella Lehr's cover became a Top 10 hit. Parton
re-recorded the track with a pop-disco flair for the single, which she then released to pop stations, giving her a top 20 crossover - though for the first time in Dolly's career, she had country purists grumbling about the growing pop influence in her sound.

Having travelled a lot, often alone and staying in many a hotel room with a happy party going on next door or in a nearby room, I find this a totally relatable song, as it correctly shows such a party not as a problem but as an opportunity for a good night out - with your hotel room very conveniently close. It's a great fun song about not wallowing around alone,
but getting out to enjoy life and good times -
"... I think I'll dry these useless tears and get myself together / I think I'll wander down the hall and have a look around /
'Cause I can't stay inside this lonely room and cry forever / I think I'd really rather join 'em two doors down
..."

The CMA named Parton Entertainer of the Year in 1978, and it seemed as if Parton could have the best of both worlds - country and pop.

"Great Balls Of Fire" was a heavily pop tinged record that had everything from Jerry Lee Lewis to Beatles covers. It's big hit was 'You’re The Only One', the # 1 hit of 1979. It depends on your taste as to how well you like (or dislike) this. I very nearly didn't include at all as it's clearly more pop than my other Dolly selections. It's a powerhouse ballad, complete with everything from a soaring chorus to sliding electric guitar (the one thing that saved the song for inclusion here) that was prescient of the coming '80s sound. Parton usually sang with a calculated restraint, but here she really goes for it here, belting with the help of an operatic group of backup singers, and delivering an emotionally raw, almost spoken word bridge -


About the most country song on the "Great Balls Of Fire" album is 'Sweet Summer Lovin’, a # 7 hit in 1979. Just as the title implies, it’s all about falling in love - not a serious song with any deep meaning. Instead, it was intended to be something lighthearted and relaxing. The lyrics speak of the types of emotions that are evoked in a person when they begin to fall in love - but it's really more about the mood, or vibe of the song, reminiscent of The Eagles 1972 hit, 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling' -


Tomorrow will continue Dolly's career from 1980, the year she went all out pop - and had her biggest selling hit. You'll see how I handle Dolly's 1980's pop icon era tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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[QUOTE="CliffMcTainshaw, post: 72961474, member: 161544][/QUOTE]
All about a real lost boy - and Australia's biggest search with up to 5,000 looking for him. The song was so successful that Jimmy Dean (posts # 428-429) cut a cover in the U.S. - but Ashcroft's more heartfelt original is much the better version.
 

CliffMcTainshaw

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[QUOTE="CliffMcTainshaw, post: 72961474, member: 161544]
All about a real lost boy - and Australia's biggest search with up to 5,000 looking for him. The song was so successful that Jimmy Dean (posts # 428-429) cut a cover in the U.S. - but Ashcroft's more heartfelt original is much the better version.
[/QUOTE]
I remember it well, it was all over the news. Even though we lived in the city, where we lived there was plenty of bush around the place and once you went out a bit further it was scrub. So my mother who grew up in the country gave all of us, including my 4 year old sister (who was the same age as the lost kid), a lecture on what to do if we got lost. She also went out and bought the record. It was first of the few 45 rpm records my mum bought. My mum had a collection of about 50, 78 rpm records. I was allowed to put on the 12 inch 78's and stack them up on the old HMV and play them. I wasn't allowed put it on and play 45's until I got a paper round a couple of years later and started to buy my own records. I had completely forgotten about the lecture until many years later when we took our kids on their first camping trip. My wife made the comment "we better not lose any of them" and I ended up giving them the same lecture before we left.
 

Osho

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It's 1977 and Dolly Parton, after a decade of song-writing, performing and recording, has climbed up to replace Lynn Anderson and even Loretta Lynn to become the pre-eminent female country music entertainer. But she didn't stop their, deciding to alter her sound to appeal to a broader and bigger, pop audience - even at the risk of alienating some of her hard core country music base. She succeeded all too well, though in the late 1970's she still retained country music elements in her music to a greater or lesser extent, as we shall now see.

Although most of Parton’s hits were written by the country legend herself, this 1977 single was written by husband-
and-wife songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Originally intended for Brenda Lee, 'Here You Come Again' was selected to broaden Parton’s pop appeal - despite her initial hesitation. “She said a monkey could record this song and have a hit with it,” her manager Sandy Gallin once said. Parton was eventually swayed into recording the number, but
she put her foot down before letting the production stray too far from the country twang that built her. She insisted
upon adding a steel guitar to the mix, spurring producer Gary Klein to hire the renowned Al Perkins for the additional instrumentals. The song saw success in both formats, clinching the #1 spot on the country charts for 5 weeks - but
also crossing over, climbing to #3 on the pop charts.

The genius of the song - one of the few that Parton didn't pen herself - is in the key changes that match the mood of her schizophrenic feelings. On the first verse, Parton’s agony is palpable over the fact that the object of her unrequited love has shown up again. Next, the key changes over the chorus, which is brimming with hope. As Parton bemoans - “... All you gotta do is smile that smile / And there go all my defenses ...", the progression gets brighter and warmer. Parton returns to the verse again, as if coming back down to earth - but not all the way. Each verse is a musical half-step higher than the last, which the listener interprets as more and more joyful. The song begins with loathing and finishes swept up in the ecstasy of attraction - on the same lyrics and same chord progression, but now in a higher key. It doesn’t just describe a familiar experience, but aurally feels like one. Parton’s effortlessly genuine soprano sells it, kaleidoscoping through agony, optimism, trepidation, and infatuation -

'Here You Come Again' earned Dolly her first Grammy for best female vocal performance.

Parton was headed into the peak of her career when she released 'It's All Wrong, But It's All Right' in 1977, becoming Parton's 8th # 1 hit. A very unique entry in Dolly’s catalogue, it showcases her storytelling prowess. Certainly more scandalous than her other songs, it tells of an illicit love - but in the most beautiful way. She later admitted she was surprised that country radio embraced the song because of its frank lyric about casual sex -
"Hello, are you free tonight / I like your looks, I love your smile /
Could I use you for a while / It's all wrong, but it's all right..."



The flip side of 'It's All Wrong, But It's All Right' was 'Two Doors Down', which Parton wrote while she was staying by herself in a hotel, when she heard the sound of laughter and fun coming from another room. Before Parton released
her original as the second single from "Here You Come Again" album, Zella Lehr's cover became a Top 10 hit. Parton
re-recorded the track with a pop-disco flair for the single, which she then released to pop stations, giving her a top 20 crossover - though for the first time in Dolly's career, she had country purists grumbling about the growing pop influence in her sound.

Having travelled a lot, often alone and staying in many a hotel room with a happy party going on next door or in a nearby room, I find this a totally relatable song, as it correctly shows such a party not as a problem but as an opportunity for a good night out - with your hotel room very conveniently close. It's a great fun song about not wallowing around alone,
but getting out to enjoy life and good times -
"... I think I'll dry these useless tears and get myself together / I think I'll wander down the hall and have a look around /
'Cause I can't stay inside this lonely room and cry forever / I think I'd really rather join 'em two doors down
..."

The CMA named Parton Entertainer of the Year in 1978, and it seemed as if Parton could have the best of both worlds - country and pop.

"Great Balls Of Fire" was a heavily pop tinged record that had everything from Jerry Lee Lewis to Beatles covers. It's big hit was 'You’re The Only One', the # 1 hit of 1979. It depends on your taste as to how well you like (or dislike) this. I very nearly didn't include at all as it's clearly more pop than my other Dolly selections. It's a powerhouse ballad, complete with everything from a soaring chorus to sliding electric guitar (the one thing that saved the song for inclusion here) that was prescient of the coming '80s sound. Parton usually sang with a calculated restraint, but here she really goes for it here, belting with the help of an operatic group of backup singers, and delivering an emotionally raw, almost spoken word bridge -


About the most country song on the "Great Balls Of Fire" album is 'Sweet Summer Lovin’, a # 7 hit in 1979. Just as the title implies, it’s all about falling in love - not a serious song with any deep meaning. Instead, it was intended to be something lighthearted and relaxing. The lyrics speak of the types of emotions that are evoked in a person when they begin to fall in love - but it's really more about the mood, or vibe of the song, reminiscent of The Eagles 1972 hit, 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling' -


Tomorrow will continue Dolly's career from 1980, the year she went all out pop - and had her biggest selling hit. You'll see how I handle Dolly's 1980's pop icon era tomorrow.
Dolly always seemed to have such an easy charm and optimism. No doubt she was extremely intelligent and worldly wise, strong. A southern belle, way more classy than many an uptight snide toxic west coaster. I offer as evidence Barbara Walters (she is still on The View I believe) interviewing Dolly, probably 80s I guess. Trash versus Class. Guess who wins?

 

Professor Knowall

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Dolly always seemed to have such an easy charm and optimism. No doubt she was extremely intelligent and worldly wise, strong. A southern belle, way more classy than many an uptight snide toxic west coaster. I offer as evidence Barbara Walters (she is still on The View I believe) interviewing Dolly, probably 80s I guess. Trash versus Class. Guess who wins?
This ties in perfectly with this history piece - which won't be continued until tomorrow as I've been busier than expected today. I'll have still more to say on her saviness in the next couple of days - suffice to say that many interviewers have tried but non have yet succeeded in cracking Dolly.
 

Professor Knowall

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In 1980, Parton’s new pop influenced life looked beyond Nashville and increasingly upon Hollywood. Parton’s country career became erratic after that, however, even as her name became a household word and she became a constant presence on network TV, appearing on talk shows and specials. Her movie career bounced from stellar ("9 to 5") to forgettable (Rhinestone, which attempted - unsuccessfully - to make Sylvester Stallone a believable country singer).

Parton made her silver screen debut in her 1980 comedy "9 to 5" and contributed the hit song of the same name to the film's soundtrack. It turned out to be the pinnacle of Parton's career, the song soaring to # 1 on the pop charts. Parton's performance and song earned her a slew of award nominations including from the Golden Globes for New Female Star
of the Year in a Motion Picture, Best Actress in a Motion Picture, and Best Original Song; to the Oscars for Best Original Song; and from the People's Choice Award for Favorite Theme/Song from a Motion Picture. She was also nominated for
4 Grammys and won 2 of them for Best Song and Best Female Vocal Performance.

So by the end of 1980, Dolly Parton wasn't just the biggest country music star - she was now the world's most popular pop icon. How do I handle it here? - mainly by ignoring it ever happened and excluding her biggest solo hit and a few other big hits that followed (with one notable exception that I'll get to below) on the grounds they're not country music
so they don't belong here (and you may recall I also did the same thing, for the same reason, to exclude some of Lynn Anderson's biggest hits). Nothing personal against the singers of course - one can never blame them for successfully chasing the bigger, more lucrative pop market (like Taylor Swift as a more recent example), but this thread is for country music. I do allow (and have posted quite a lot) of pop-country, but not straight out pop with no country elements at all. So '9 to 5' won't appear here but the good news is - as Dolly later correctly said - she never really abandoned country music in her pop era 1980's, and she's right, as today's offering will show.

'Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)' was a # 14 hit for Joe Sun in 1978. Dolly took it all the way to # 1 in 1980, shortly before the release of her massive worldwide pop hit '9 to 5' This is one of those lovelorn country ballads about
the one that got away, and how that feeling of absence has animated many a bleary-eyed evening stroll downtown. The song has endured culturally thanks to a surprising connection to pop singer Kesha, who covered it - with an assist from Parton - in 2017. The original was co-written by Kesha's mother, Pebe Sebert, and the two turning it into a duet is a true Hollywood - or, this case, Nashville - ending -


Although the song was released on the album "Jolene" in 1974, it was Parton's performance in the 1982 film "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (in which Dolly played the whorehouse's madam) that helped popularize 'I Will Always Love You' ( posted a few days back now - see post # 583). Parton tweaked the song from its original country roots and gave it a more pop-centric sound (hence why I included the more country original). Her new angle on the song paid off, tacking it back to # 1 in 1982 and earning Parton yet another Grammy nomination for Best Female Vocal Performance.

But what's often overlooked is the # 1 single's flip-side, 'Do I Ever Cross Your Mind'. The song, penned by Parton, was first released as a duet with Chet Atkins on his 1976 album, "The Best of Chet Atkins & Friends". Dolly performed it live throughout the 1970s, but didn't release a solo version until 1982 on "Heartbreak Express" and then the flip side of 'I Will Always Love You'. The richness of the vocal harmonies on this song is a masterclass in itself. Parton’s delicate voice floats atop the rich, throaty ones of her backing vocalists. The arrangement is classic, vintage country, which pairs perfectly with the song’s lyrical themes of nostalgia and the subtle, nagging fear that your best days might already just be behind you - when you were with him/her. As such, sounds lighter than its implied meaning. 'Do I Ever Cross Your Mind' is pleasant to listen to, but don't overlook its relatable, substantial lyrical content -


Firstly, this is not to be confused with the identically titled Ray Stevens pop hit of 1970, but a Parton composition from the mid-sixties that remained unreleased for many years. Dolly wrote it even before she moved to Nashville and recorded it in 1967, but it didn't make it onto an album at that time. Finally re-recorded as a duet for the album, "The Winning Hand",
a collaborative compilation country album by Dolly, Kris Kristofferson and Brenda Lee, it was released as a single and reached #7 in 1982.

Given that they're two most important country music figures of the last 50-plus years, a Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson collaboration comes with pretty high expectations. They've only done a couple (so far), but 'Everything is Beautiful (In
Its Own Way)' is a winner, like a spiritual sequel to Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' -
"...When I look out over a green field of clover / Or watch the sunset at the end of the day /
I get kind of moody when I see such beauty / And everything's beautiful in its own way
..." -


Now for the pop tune I just couldn't exclude. 'Islands in the Stream' is one of those miracle songs - a piece so kitschy
and melodically simple and with lyrics that seem to have been translated from Englih to Dutch then back to English again ... using Google Translate ..., it ought to be (and if not taken in the right spirit, can be) unbearable. And yet… it has that something (a bit like a so bad, it's actually good way) - and it's mostly saved by Dolly, who really does sound fantastic
on this - this range lands right on most women’s vocal break, but Parton navigates it expertly. The key to the song is to ignore the ludicrous lyrics (but don't hesitate to sing along) and fully embrace all its schmaltz.

'Islands In The Stream' was written by the Barry Gibb with a distinctly different vocalist in mind - Marvin Gaye. But once Kenny Rogers got his hands on the number, it took a few failures before he brought in Parton to carry the recording home - “I’d sung that song for four days and I finally just told Barry Gibb, ‘I don’t even like this song anymore,” Rogers later recalled in 2013. “And [Gibb] said ‘What we need is Dolly Parton". She just happened to be downstairs, and although Parton and Rogers had only met briefly before the collaboration, their work together on 'Islands In The Stream' yielded
a classic recording and a lifelong friendship. The song hit #1 across the country, pop and adult contemporary charts,
the second time Parton and Rogers each accomplished that feat throughout their individual careers. It also led to more collaborations and tours together - as well as rumours about their relationship due to their obvious on-stage chemistry, which both always insisted, no doubt rightly, as nothing more than a close friendship.

For this, I've deliberately chosen a live version - I challenge you to watch and listen to this - in the right spirit - without raising at least some sort of smile -


New York City ain’t no kind of place/ For a country girl with a friendly face...” Parton sings on this 1984 tribute to her home state. While the sentiment has been echoed in many a country song, Parton’s lyrical lament over the lack of grits, gravy and country ham in her life to her life, makes for a vivid picture of the rural life she left behind in the Smoky Mountains. She makes the point on other songs like 'My Tennessee Mountain Home'. The title song for the Hollywood movie, "Rhinestone", a patently bad (though I still find it weirdly entertaining due to its subject matter and it's now
period setting) in which Dolly starred alongside a totally unconvincing Sylvester Stallone as a country singer, 'Tennessee Homesick Blues' topped the charts and enjoyed greater success than the dud film itself, going all the way to # 1 in 1984. This is another of her series of songs about her rural Appalachian Tennessee roots (and not her last) -
"... The greenest state in the land of the free / And the home of the Grand Ole' Opry is calling me back to my Smokey Mountain home ..." -


I've already spoken a bit on Parton's intelligence and business acumen (despite never going to college) such as her decision to leave the Porter Wagoner Show (she actually sued him at the time and for years they were estranged but
were eventually reconciled back to friendship) and her insistence on owning the rights to all the songs she wrote (Taylor Swift should've followed her example earlier) resulting in a huge financial windfall when Whitney Houston had a massive worldwide hit with her OTT rendition of 'I Will Always Love You' in 1992.

Parton is also known for her generosity and philanthropy (more about that in the coming days) but the initiative she's
best known for is her theme park, Dollywood, which she built in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, near her hometown. During
the park's 25th season in 2010, Parton said she always intended on returning to her home and helping better the lives
of everyone who supported her as a young aspiring musician. "I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area. Sure enough, I was lucky, and God was good to me and things happened good. We started the park, and 25 years later, we're still at it." The theme park is now one of Tennessee's top tourist attractions, employing hundreds in an otherwise still poor rural area. Besides the usual theme park rides, Dollywood showcases all genres of country music.

Tomorrow will follow Dolly's career into the 1990's, as her music changes direction again.
 

La Dispute

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Never really explored a whole lot of country music except for alt country eg Wilco and Ryan Adams, but I’ve been listening to Gene Clark and Jackson C. Frank and really like the general style.

Any other reccs?
 

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