July 16, 2017

"Music that comes out of an enclosed, close-knit world is qualitatively, profoundly different from music that comes from a very diverse, open world."

"That’s the essence of the difference between country and rock ’n’ roll. I use the example of the saddest country song of all time to talk about how it could never have been a rock ’n’ roll song. Rock ’n’ roll is just incapable of speaking that kind of emotional language."

Says Malcolm Gladwell. He's teasing an upcoming podcast, and he doesn't name the "the saddest country song of all time." I haven't listened to country music all that much over the years, but I immediately assumed the song is "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

I guess I should wait until I can hear Gladwell's full argument about the difference between country and rock ’n’ roll, but his generalizations kind of irk me. I think what bothers me is the us-them of it and how it feels so much like the political liberal's distancing from the "deplorables" — those bitter clingers in their enclosed, close-knit world, those little people, so different from us — we who are thriving and flourishing in a very diverse, open world.

The Gladwell interview is mostly about something else, and I'm going to use that in the next post, so please, in this comments thread, only talk about the quote about the difference between country and rock ’n’ roll. Did it irk you too? For the same or a different reason? And is there any question that I've named the saddest country song?

190 comments:

James said...

https://youtu.be/ad9De8V07a4

Chest Rockwell said...

"And is there any question that I've named the saddest country song?"

That title belongs to 'If my Dick is up, why am I down?' by Wheeler Walker Jr.

https://g.co/kgs/eP7WPr

Amichel said...

No doubt, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is one of the saddest country songs of all time. I'm also rather fond of Johnny Cash's cover of "I Hung My Head".

Ralph L said...

Wait, I thought diversity was always THE best thing about everything.

darrenoia said...

My guess is that the song will be "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." I'm no country music expert, but I think an "outsider" is more likely to know about and choose Hank Williams than George Jones.

I think the reason the statement is annoying is the use of subtly judgmental terms such as "closed" as though they are neutrally descriptive. Common trick of the liberal set.

rhhardin said...

"If I'd killed you when I wanted to I'd be out by now."

traditionalguy said...

Try Hello Walls. Country Music and Rock and Roll have always overlapped. Catch Walk the Line that documents the begining of Rock and Roll.

Laslo Spatula said...

Where would Gladwell put Rap in this dialectic?

Is that it is predominantly black mean diversity, or a close-knit world?

Is Rap incapable of speaking the kind of country-music emotional language?

Or is it indeed an emotional language, replacing Country's sadness with anger?

I Am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

"Which one of you queers gonna suck my dick?" Wheeler Walker Jr.

PhilaGuy said...

A diverse world has more emotional diversity, right? So that means rock n roll is the closed world.

EDH said...

I listened to "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today" and thought, that shouldn't be a sad song. Isn't it about a man finally moving on after a woman dumped him? You know, like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Althouse is being sexist for not letting a man get over a woman who done him wrong!

Then I read the the lyrics and realized "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today" precisely because he didn't "survive," he died, and lived the last decades of his life alone and heartbroken. Keeping his early promise to "love you till I die", when she demurred "You'll forget in time".

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they'll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

You know, she came to see him one last time.
Aww, 'n' we all wondered if she would
And it kept runnin' through my mind-"this time he's over her for good."


The lesson, of course, is to listen to gay-friendly disco instead of country music when you are depressed and heartbroken.

But seriously, that is what can be so moving about country songs, the hidden meaning and poignancy inside a twist of a story.

rhhardin said...

"Something's Wrong with the Beaver" Kinky Friedman

Clyde said...

I would guess "He Stopped Loving Her Today" as well. My dad told me it was the saddest country song he'd ever heard, and I concurred.

As for the difference between rock and country, there's a lot of overlap these days. Much of what comes out of Nashville these days is just PIP music with a twang.

Clyde said...

Pop music with a twang. Damn autocomplete!

Bob Boyd said...

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got run over by a damned old train - Steve Goodman, 'You Never Even Called Me By My Name'

Alan Gunn said...

Thar was the song I thought of, too, but my choice would be Bill Anderson's "Still." Possibly not a song Gladwell knows, though.

Jeff Gee said...

Feh. Writers. They always say they're talking about music, but they always end up talking about lyrics.

Roy Lofquist said...

Pop music is about fucking. Country music is about living.

GRW3 said...

The story goes that George Jones didn't think it was going to be much of a song but his producer thought it fit his persona really well. He was at the studio getting ready to record the song, all mic'd and earphoned up. The studio had a large common area between the recording booths. Just before he started to sing, he ex-wife, and true love, Tammy Wynette walked in where he could see her. Thus, the song bears his true feelings on top of the lyrics, giving it the power it has.

Bob R said...

He Stopped Loving Her Today was recorded in 1979. Country music was as cosmopolitan as Rock and Roll by that time. A long way from the Carter family and the Louvin Brothers. Perhaps you could describe country music as coming from an enclosed, close-knit world in the 20's and 30's, but the country boys who came back from WW2 were a lot more worldly than their fathers. Then television hit, and enclosed was no longer an issue. (Maybe close-knit still held true.)

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Assuming Gladwell's 4-factor dichotomy as indicating mental attitudes and not physical environs, I wonder if classical musicology historians can shed some light on this ... Rand famously disliked Beethoven but enjoyed Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff .

Bay Area Guy said...

Okie from Muskogee by Merle Haggard

We don't make a party out of lovin'
We like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo
We don't let our hair grow long and shaggy
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do


Asshole from El Paso by Kinky Friedman

We don't wipe our asses on old glory,
God and lone star beer are things we trust.
We keep our women virgins till they're married
So hosin' sheep is good enough for us.

Charlie Currie said...

"Well, I'm a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin' down to take a look at me."

Rock and Roll or Country?

Gladwell is an idiot.

dreams said...

I think you're right about the song, for sure.

Fernandinande said...

"Music that comes out of an enclosed, close-knit world ...

At first I took that to mean Navajo drums or Opera 'n' classical, then it turns out he's referring to a continuum of popular music, which doesn't have close-knit worlds and besides rock ’n’ roll is quite capable of speaking "that kind of emotional language", just transpose the lyrics.

Gladwell's known for inventing his own igon values.

dreams said...

"My guess is that the song will be "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." I'm no country music expert, but I think an "outsider" is more likely to know about and choose Hank Williams than George Jones."

Yeah, that song too.

richlb said...

So now diversity is inferior to a close-knit community? Make up your mind!

Earnest Prole said...

I suppose that depends on how Gladwell defines "an enclosed, close-knit world" and "a very diverse, open world." The primary difference between country and rock music is that the former was written for adults and the latter for children.

sykes.1 said...

There was a time when established rock bands switched to country/western, mostly because there was more money in it. Kenny Rogers is the prime example.

Growing up in 50's-60's Boston, I never heard much country/western on the radio (AM, of course), which was then dominated by jazz, the standards and some rock and roll, which was just getting started. Now, living in north central Ohio I hear lots of country/western, but even more rap, even though this is a pretty White place.

Why is the White working class being negrified. I even saw a young, scrawny White guy with fa) wife and kid in tow waddling toward their SUV with his pants down below his arse.

Blues to Jazz to rap. Whatever happened to Blacks?

Bob Ellison said...

"I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton.

tcrosse said...

Presumably Feb 3 1959 is the Day the Music Died.

Unknown said...

Apart from being a virtual tourist on Google Earth just about everything "irks" @althouse. Every "irk" has a sniff of the liberals. Wow, what a co-incidence.

Laslo Spatula said...

Re: my 7:36 comment...

Jay-Z:

Push through the pain so we can see new life
So all the ladies havin' babies, see a sacrifice
Mama had four kids, but she's a lesbian
Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian
Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate
Society shame and the pain was too much to take
Cried tears of joy when you fell in love
Don't matter to me if it's a him or her
I just wanna see you smile through all the hate
Marie Antoinette, baby, let 'em eat cake

Bad times turn to good memories, smile
Even when I'm gone and you remember me, smile
Good times never fade away, smile
Even if I'm not with you here today, smile

Diversity in a close-knit world, perhaps.

I am Laslo.

Jimmy said...

"You Never Even Called Me By My Name" - David Allen Coe

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got run over by a damned old train

exiledonmainstreet said...

I'm not a big C & W fan but there are a handful of country songs I really like.

I always thought Kenny Rogers' "Ruby" was a quietly powerful song, with that final plea: "For God's sake, turn around."

But Steve Goodman wrote the ultimate country song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA7AHMSHvlE

Bob Ellison said...

"irk" has an interesting etymology. Much of the etymology I find online looks like a load of crap laid down by Chomskyites. "irk" seems like a word that might have just popped up many decades ago, almost in an onomatopoeian way, but not really...just a word to describe the sound one might make when something irks one.

Much like "meh".

Luke Lea said...

Rock and Roll was essentially an American phenomenon which later spread to Britain and Canada. How diverse is that?

Barry Dauphin said...

"I Don't Know Whether to Kill Myself or Go Bowling."

exiledonmainstreet said...

Jimmy beat me to it.

Coe recorded it, but I believe Goodman wrote it.

Goodman, who died young, was an underappreciated talent. I saw he perform at Summerfest in the late 70's and it was a wonderful concert. He also wrote "City of New Orleans" which was a hit for Arlo Guthrie.

Unfortunately, he was also responsible for the "Go Cubs Go" song which non-Cubs fans have to endure after every Cub win at Wrigley. So, not an unmixed legacy.

Luke Lea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

I think what bothers me is the us-them of it and how it feels so much like the political liberal's distancing from the "deplorables" — those bitter clingers in their enclosed, close-knit world, those little people, so different from us — we who are thriving and flourishing in a very diverse, open world.

This really is the heart of it. So much talk of diversity and inclusiveness in the Progressive marketing materials. So little concern for those who choose other paths or fail to see the benefits of the New World Order.

All you have to do is label them "losers", and you can go on about your business of ignoring them.

I expect that should this discussion make it to the WAPO or NYT, the comments will be full of people loudly proclaiming, "Yeah, but country music sucks!"

Bima said...

My vote is for Chris Stapleton - Either Way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7LoWH0nMrE

Fernandinande said...

What you get when you play a country song backwards?

You get your dog back, you get your pickup back, you get your wife back and you get out of prison.

mesquito said...

George Jones like the song but did not want to release it because it was "too damned morbid."

Mary Beth said...

It would be hilarious if he chose to play Johnny Cash singing "Hurt" as the saddest country song.

Luke Lea said...

As for sad songs, no genre has a monopoly. It is a major theme in all forms of popular music: death, broken hearts, loneliness . . . Elvis and Hank Williams excelled in sad songs. A better question might be where would music be without sad songs:

https://goo.gl/q56L5E

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Pop music is about fucking. Country music is about living.

Exactly. Ninety-five percent of Rock is about trying to have sex, or having sex. The other five percent is from the few woman in Rock and is generally about relationships.

When I was young I didn't care for Country, but as my taste matured I have developed an appreciation for it.

And yes, the statement subtly putting Country and the people down irks me.

Bob Ellison said...

Bima, thanks for the pointer. That's a good song and a great recording.

Bay Area Guy said...

In the late 60s, there was a rumor that Paul McCartney had died, established by the supposed fact that if you played "Revolution 9" backwards you could hear, "Paul is Dead". This captured (temporarily) the minds of many a stoned college kid on campus.

In similar fashion, if you played any country music song backwards, all sorts of good things would start to happen - you'd get your car back, you'd get your job back, you'd get your girl back....,,,,,

dreams said...

"I think what bothers me is the us-them of it and how it feels so much like the political liberal's distancing from the "deplorables" — those bitter clingers in their enclosed, close-knit world, those little people, so different from us — we who are thriving and flourishing in a very diverse, open world."

I blame the herd instinct.

Feste said...

rhhardin said...
"Which one of you queers gonna suck my dick?" Wheeler Walker Jr.

See, that’s what I’m thinkin’.

The saddest country song hasn’t been written yet. For example, I’ve been trying to practice “Meade’s Complimentary Guide to Complimenting Women,” but the copy editor of my edition forgot to include the word – not – as in “do not say,” so I told Nurse Ratched, “honey, your chamber is the most empty one in the room.”

Ratched spun up Yoakam and Crow, “Oh, Baby Don't Go.”

That song would be one of my candidates, only because my context made it so, since Ratched smiled the cunt-grin, never said a word, but she was thinking it, “you’ll never get out of my closed knit world, so enjoy the music.”

Sad part was, I could not come or go. My ego was dissolving because sad country music does it every time.

I can’t finish the saddest country song. Not here.

This closed knit place is closing in on me.

dreams said...

"You Never Even Called Me By My Name" - David Allen Coe

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got run over by a damned old train"

That it is definitely the perfect country and western song.

dustbunny said...

I'd go for the already mentioned"I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry" or other Hank Williams heartbreak songs like "Lonesome Whistle"or "Cold Cold Heart". There is something so purely mournful but not gloomy in his music.that keeps them from being mawkish.

Equipment Maintenance said...

The saddest song ever is "Ghost in this House" as sung by Alison Krauss. Devastating.

dustbunny said...

I doubt Dylan would be Dylan without Hank Williams, i.e. "Blood on the Tracks". Also Elvis. The crossover of country into rock and roll is undeniable

Luke Lea said...

Speaking of sad music, let's not forget the Delta Blues from which much of Country and Rock and Roll are derived. The whole genre is nothing but sad songs.

Meade said...

Prisoner's Song by Vernon Dalhart.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Was there anything at all political in what Gladwell said or was that part all projected?

Country music basically sucks - w/the possible exceptions of Luke Bryan, Waylon and Shooter Jennings and - if you want to get technical about it, Johnny Cash. Folk music is much better - because it's basically the pre-commercialized version of country, before egos and sound engineers get all fussy and feisty with a medium that's supposed to pride itself on being more rooted in the first place. It's an attempt to make little league rock stars with flashy personas and egos and different coiffure and headdress out of quiet, yodeling twangs, yelps and string runs - and ends up ultimately becoming the phonier medium, even in this age of ProTools and autotune. A faint image of it's bigger and better cousin rock and roll.

Rock was a fusion of blues and folk. Country was just an attempt to take white folk somewhere else, somewhere fancier, while keeping the black blues out. So yes, generally more limiting because it drew on fewer styles and influences. And just became maudlin in a way that may be deeper but is still less expressive of sadness than blues could do.

I mean, as long as you want to get all "us vs them" about it...

Angel-Dyne said...

The quote didn't irk me for the same reason it did irk you. Gladwell is a pop-intellectual whose job is to validate the preconceptions of the class of readers who happen to be the "political liberals" you describe. I'd be surprised if his work didn't include call-outs like that.

traditionalguy said...

The demographics of country music that he says we deplore as dumb and narrow minded is Scots Irish and votes 90% for Trump because they are loyal to courageous leaders. Glad well wants an excuse for that inconvenient American culture factoid....Russia, Russia, Russia is not working well.

Robert said...

some sad song and album ideas from 15m of thinking..

tears in heven, eric clapton

walk on by

has she got a friend for me, maria mckee's version

she floated away, husker du

arcade fire, funeral

the antlers, hospice

Bob Ellison said...

TTR, are you trying for parody, or just getting there absent-mindedly?

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Well, if you have a specific criticism, Bob, feel free to make it.

Or just feel free to dispense with the sort of scattershot generalizations that are best left to those who would use a characterization as lazy as "Chomskyite!"

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The distinction between Country and Rock and Roll depends on how you define those genres and what time frame you are choosing. Music has changed and morphed over the years. Early Rock and Roll...Buddy Holly and Elvis had many elements of "country style". Elvis' biggest hits were a blend of rock, country, blues and gospel.

All of these genres borrowed from each other. To say that they are distinct from each other shows a massive ignorance of not just music but how cultures evolve.

Current modern Pop Music, I hesitate to call it Rock and Roll, doesn't contain the same emotional stories that older Rock or Pop music did.

And Yes. I vote for George Jones...He Stopped Lovin Her Today. An other sad country song. Don't Close Your Eyes Keith Whitley.

Country music still seems to have more emotional content and tells a story.

Ann Althouse said...

"Feh. Writers. They always say they're talking about music, but they always end up talking about lyrics."

I can't remember who originally said this — Berlioz?? — but: It's impossible to write about music, because it's too specific.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

It's possible that Bob is in danger of John Denver-ing the thread.

The blandness! It burns! ;-)

Bob Ellison said...

Thanks for reading, TTR. Sorry if I'm too brief.

Bob Ellison said...

It's impossible to write about music, because it's too specific.

When I discuss music, I feel this powerful urge to go to the piano in order to put the concepts into the musical realm. Music theory and discussion usually doesn't well verbally. Nat Hentoff was good at it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Then for good old Country style revenge.

Papa Loved Mama Garth Brooks

He never hit the brakes and he was shifting gears. :-D

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

All of these genres borrowed from each other. To say that they are distinct from each other shows a massive ignorance of not just music but how cultures evolve.

Current modern Pop Music, I hesitate to call it Rock and Roll, doesn't contain the same emotional stories that older Rock or Pop music did.

(...)

Country music still seems to have more emotional content and tells a story.


I guess we now have an explanation for Kid Rock.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

An explanation anyway, but not an excuse.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

As for Gladwell, he wrote a good book. About 15 years ago.

I don't know that he's really re-captured anything as important or interesting as that first work of his, though.

Laslo Spatula said...

Garth Brooks was country.

Chris Gaines tried to be rock n/ roll.

I am Laslo.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laslo Spatula said...

Country music is for people in low-paying jobs.

Rock-and-roll is for kids who have no jobs at all.

I am Laslo.

Etienne said...

I always tear-up when I hear this song on the radio:

That big diesel motor is a-playing my song
Thank God and Greyhound you're gone


sniff...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Are you saying that barista/bartender is not a job description?

tcrosse said...

Martin Mull has been credited with saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
FWIW here's an exegesis of the concept:
Writing about x is like y about z

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The Dance

When I Call your Name

Stop me! I'm on a roll.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Elvis brought gospel into "his" work, but not until later, IIRC.

U2 did some of the same.

I guess it hasn't caught on much beyond them. Which is funny, given how successful it made them both.

dustbunny said...

Toothless. If you want specific, rock and roll was not just a fusion of blues and folk unless as the Dust Bunny Queen mentioned you would absurdly exclude Buddy Holly and Elvis from rock and roll. You seem so desperate to separate yourself from the hillbillies that you make yourself absurd in a discussion of the roots of the genre.

Unknown said...

Last Cheater's Waltz, sung by Emmylou Harris.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

Right time frame, wrong composer. Mendelssohn said that. (Though I doubt very much that he was the only one.)

Feste said...

"Feh. Writers. They always say they're talking about music, but they always end up talking about lyrics."

Music is literally in the cochlea. Before signals get sent to the brain.

However it really works in ‘the feeling of what happens’ (Damassio), beats me how to write words about music-in-the-cochlea before the acoustics in my ear get sent to my brain.

Is the problem really a mistaken focus on lyrics, or is the problem using any words at all (any writing) to describe the music? Would dance, or perfect stillness, be the purest forms of interpreting the raw acoustics? Isn’t my cochlea literally dancing, physically, all those tiny vibrations? Transferring the vibrations outwardly to the rest of my body? Can any written words really compete with dance? Or perfect stillness? As a response to the music? Are words the closed-knit world that trap me from dancing or sitting still to the music?

Laslo Spatula said...

"Are you saying that barista/bartender is not a job description?"

Ha!

Well played!

I am Laslo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Early Elvis. That's When Your Heartaches Begin I hear country and some gospel styling in this very early demo.

As I recall, much of the older generation's objections to Elvis was that he sounded too "black".

Blue moon of kentucky Come on! They are playing the spoons. If that ain't country!

Seriously though. It is really difficult to separate early rock and roll, country, black southern music, gospel....as the genres all blended together and they borrowed extensively

Unknown said...

Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town

Islands in the Stream, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

Henry said...

I've recently discovered country singer Jason Isbell, a fantastic lyricist and singer. Country music fans, feel free to laugh at me. He's been around a long time as a solo artist and frontman for Drive By Truckers and his own band, the 400.

Isbell cites Bob Dylan as a big influence. He also says this about his songwriting:

"If I could write rock & roll songs on purpose, I'd do it all the time,"

and

“It’s all folk music. Some’s louder than others.”

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Two exceptions, then?

Holly was a Texan from rock's early days who died before the medium became less inchoate.

Elvis was a Mississippi boy who didn't write his own songs.

I don't doubt that they (or their writers) took from what had finally started to become known just a decade before as "country", before its split from folk and rock was more or less complete.

Incidentally, wiki sez its popularity started in the 40s once it finally saw fit to shed its earlier moniker "hillbilly". Lol.

If country had ultimately become more popular than rock, then maybe they'd be known more today as country legends than rock pioneers.

Unknown said...

Harvest Moon, by Neil Diamond, but is it country western?

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

As I recall, much of the older generation's objections to Elvis was that he sounded too "black".

Exactly so! (Well, that and the hips). That's why he was known for rock - because of the blues ("black music") influence that it had.

Before Lieber and Stoller hit with Elvis' Hound Dog, they'd sold it first to some much lesser known, big, blues-singing lady named Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. You should watch the clips of her! They're a hoot.

If anyone can find an instance of this happening in country music then they can get the $25,000 prize.

Bill Crawford said...

Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisley and Allison Krause - infidelity, alcoholism, death. What's not to love?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Then to declare all Country music as being the same is also ignorance.

There are many various styles. Roadhouse Honky Tonk. Appalachian country with strong Scots Irish roots. Bluegrass country. ETC ETC ETC

Here:

Ameripolitan music
Appalachian folk (a subgenre of Folk music)
Australian country music
Bush Band
Bakersfield sound
Bluegrass
Old-time bluegrass/Appalachian bluegrass
Traditional bluegrass/Neo-Traditional bluegrass
Progressive bluegrass/Nu-grass
Bluegrass gospel
Bro-country
Cajun
Canadian country music
Christian country music
Classic country
Swamp music
Country blues (this is also considered a subgenre of Blues)
Country folk
Country pop/Cosmopolitan country
Country rap (this is also considered a subgenre of Hip-Hop)
Alternative country
Americana
Cowpunk/Country-punk
Lubbock sound
Rockabilly/Neo-Rockabilly
Psychobilly/Punkabilly
Gothabilly/Hellbilly
Roots rock
Folk rock
Heartland rock
Country rock
Southern rock
Tulsa Sound
Cowboy/Western music
Dansband music
Franco-country
Gulf and western
Hokum (this is also considered a subgenre of Blues)
Honky tonk music
Instrumental country
Nashville sound
Countrypolitan
Neotraditional country
New country
Old-time music/Hillbilly music (a subgenre of Folk music)
Outlaw country
Red Dirt
Sertanejo
Southern soul (this is also considered a subgenre of Soul)
Techno-Country (a Eurodance country style, popularized by the Rednex)
Texas country
Progressive country
Talking blues
Tex-Mex/Tejano
Traditional Country music
Truck-driving country
Western swing
White power country
Zydeco (a subgenre of Folk music)


Same thing for Rock/Pop the styles are so varied. To class them all as being the same is ridiculous.

Josephbleau said...

The perfect country song was written and recorded by Goodman and Prine, for the record.

Unknown said...

The Lucky One, by Alison Kraus

Country Western doesn't always have to sound like someone singing through their nose.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Oh, speaking of large, black, early rock/blues women, check out Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Especially a clip of her accompanying herself on an electric guitar while performing up off the tracks of an English train station. It's pretty entertaining.

J2 said...

It can't be "I'm so lonely I could cry". It's not Gladwellian. Nor is "Hello Walls", a wonderful choice; hat tip whoever above picked it.

But if Gladwell is going non-Gladwellian it could be "Help Me Make it Through the Night" or "Green, Green Grass of Home".

My favorite is "500 Miles" but it's folky.

Henry said...

I immediately assumed the song is "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

I thought of Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray.

Feste said...

Unknown said...
"Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town."

Beyond sad. Painful unto death.

That and, "you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, four hungry children and crops in the field."

Not sad. Murder.

Henry said...

A Good Year for the Roses is also pretty sad. This link is to Elvis Costello's version from his album of country standards, Almost Blue where all the songs are sad.

John said...

I vote my tears spoiled my aim as saddest song

Teenangel or leader of the pack for saddest rock song

John Henry

Unknown said...

Across the Border, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt could sing country western better than many.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Same thing for Rock/Pop the styles are so varied. To class them all as being the same is ridiculous.

I'm pretty sure that if it weren't for The Beatles, the idea of a consolidated force in rock music as overwhelming and at times monolithic as the genre in the form it became generalized as wouldn't have happened.

But then that formula was repeated - with additional contemporary pop groups, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, etc.

The popularity grew because the range of expression - louder, more transgressive, etc., - and the fact that in rock you had "groups" where talent could be drawn upon from multiple members/artists of an ensemble, without the need to designate a singular "star" just leading his back-up band.

Unless there are other examples of that in country, I'd suspect Lady Antebellum would be the first one. The Carters may be an example, but family singing groups don't count.

J2 said...

"Wichita Lineman"

Unknown said...

Ballad of a Runaway Horse

What girl doesn't love her horse?

Unknown said...

"That and, "you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, four hungry children and crops in the field."

Not sad. Murder."

Redrum, redrum...

Feste said...

"... but, I couldn't hold her, cuz' words that he told her, kept coming back time after time, 'you picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille' ..."

That is fucking murder.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Oh, I guess The Judds. There it goes again - keeping it in the family.

Feste said...

... and redrum too ...

RigelDog said...

I have listened to country all my life, along with plenty of other genres. The song that never fails to make me really cry is Tim McGraw's If You're Reading This. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6J6DDcdp2U&list=RDc6J6DDcdp2U#t=3

RigelDog said...

Saw Garth and Tricia in concert a few months ago...on the anniversary of my mother's sudden death as it happened. Unapologetic full-on crying during The Dance.

Luke Lea said...

Here's the saddest song I know: Mercy Now by Mary Gauthier: https://goo.gl/uaY4gA

Basil said...

"Don't Take the Girl." Tim McGraw. Cry every time it plays. Awful. And great.

Unknown said...

The Sweetest Gift, by the three most beautiful female voices in country western music, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstatdt

After he kills Lucille, his mother comes to visit him in prison.

John said...

A good history of both genrrs is nick toschke the twisted roots of rock and roll

He traces its evolution 1600 England to present

Don't forget the portal

John Henry

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Toothless

if it weren't for The Beatles, the idea of a consolidated force in rock music as overwhelming and at times monolithic as the genre in the form it became generalized as wouldn't have happened.

Probably so. The Beatles (whom I hate as a group) did change the face of Rock and Roll from a Buddy Holly style or JP Richardson (Big Bopper) lead with a band. Which in reality isn't that much different than a group like Queen with the 'star' Freddie Mercury with his band.

There were country ensemble groups in the past and are now.. Generally they had one or two 'lead' singers or lead musicians.....just as the Stones lead is Mick Jagger. Yet the whole ensemble is required for the 'sound'

Flatt & Scruggs
Bob Wills
The Judds & The Dixie Chicks. Asleep at the Wheel(for a more contemporary grouping.)

It isn't as different as you think.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Don't think this is the saddest country song, but I find it interesting. Its Porter Wagoner singing a song, in the 1st person, about a guy catching his wife cheating on him, so he kills them both with a knife. Its from 1967, the same year that "I'm a Believer" beat out "Light My Fire" in the top 100 Rock songs.

It reminded me of a quip I read somewhere that Country and Rap singers have a lot in common. They both wear hats to the Grammys and sing about killing people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjVDC64KNhw

Sydney said...

I think "Jolene" is sadder. But, then, I don't believe I have ever heard the George Jones version of "He Stopped Loving Her Today," only covers. I'll look it up now that I know he was looking at his ex-wife while he recorded it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Allison Kraus & Brad Paisley

Whiskey Lullaby

Sad song good video

Unknown said...

Travelin' Soldier, Dixie Chicks, gorgeous song, beautiful voices.

Talk about sad 😥.

Feste said...

Unknown said...
"The Sweetest Gift, by the three most beautiful female voices in country western music, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstatdt

"After he kills Lucille, his mother comes to visit him in prison."

WTF.

I hate Kenny Roger's guts right now. I hate "Unknown" even worse. Too true, "three most beautiful female voices in country western music."

I guess that's it. Sad country music is not sad. It puts us "in prison."

Feste said...

... can I please get out of country music prison now ...

And just sing the Little Mermaid? "She don't gotta lot to say."

Unknown said...

"I guess that's it. Sad country music is not sad. It puts us "in prison"."

Huh? So the guy who kills his wife Lucille, should just walk?

Gahrie said...

Travelin' Soldier, Dixie Chicks, gorgeous song, beautiful voices.

Up until they lost their mind (and their reputation) in London, I bought everything they released. I haven't listened to them willingly since.

Petty of me I know, but I can't help myself.

Unknown said...

"Petty of me I know, but I can't help myself"

Yes, it's petty and silly.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Oh, I guess The Judds. There it goes again - keeping it in the family.

Are you implying that the musical group doesn't really count if it consists of family?

The Bee Gees would have been surprised to hear that!

Rana said...

"He Stopped Loving Her Today" is indeed the saddest country song ever, but George Jones also sang another of the saddest songs of country, "The Cold Hard Truth." IMO, Hank Williams's premature death colors most people's opinion as to his greatness. I've never been a fan.

Karen said...

I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry.

Meade said...

Why did Gladwell stop at rock n roll. Hip-hop is the genre that borrows/steals from folk, bluegrass, country, rockabilly, r&r, and rock, etc. before bringing it all back home.

And then The Gourds flip it all once again.

Feste said...

Blogger Unknown said...
"I guess that's it. Sad country music is not sad. It puts us "in prison"."

“Huh? So the guy who kills his wife Lucille, should just walk?”

It never stops in this close-knit hell.

First things first, since a focus on lyrics is a problem around this joint, let’s just do it, “it don’t take a word, not a single word ... boy, you better do it soon ... do what the music say, go ahead, and kiss the girl.”

Now that’s done.

All I can say about whoever kills Lucille are the words, spoken in PRISON, by Abbe Faria: “Here is your final lesson (this is final: so fucking get it) - do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, ‘Vengeance is mine.’” THAT IS FINAL!

That may be final, because the band packed up, but the music never stopped.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Hip-hop is the genre that borrows/steals from folk, bluegrass, country, rockabilly, r&r, and rock, etc.

And then there is Cowboy Troy who combines ALL of the genres country rap I play chicken with the train train.

Karen said...

Mama's Hungry Eyes, Merle Haggard

PJ said...

I'll be surprised if our hostess is wrong about the saddest song because "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is at the top of nearly every list of Saddest Country Songs -- it's famous for being the saddest. (To add something to a story reported above, I have heard that the song was written about a specific man whose heart had been broken by Tammy, and George could see he would never get over her.) "Mama Hated Diesels" is another famously sad one, depending on whether you think trucking songs are a separate genre. To country music fans, "Murder on Music Row" is pretty damned sad.

Bob Ellison said...

Feste, you sound distraught. We can help. I'm a little distraught myself.

RH said...

I noticed that commenters were riffing on the perfect country
song. Not the saddest song, but I offer up a top contender for a country song idea.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdh_BVMy-yk
Wayne Kemp's "Your wife is cheating on us again".

Zach said...

I'd look at orchestration before hauling in sociology.

The classic rock band lineup is two electric guitars, an electric base, and a drumset. Because the musicians have tended to be self taught, they play in 4/4 time (easier on the drummers) and in a major key (guitarists don't know all the chords).

That lineup with those limitations isn't set up for sad songs.

Country music often features instruments like violins, steel guitars, dulcimers, etc, that don't overwhelm an unamplified singing voice. Whereas rock music tends to be guitar led, country music tends to be vocally led, and to have more women singing.

None of this applies to country after it went electric, though genre conventions can be surprisingly persistent.

Zach said...

Speaking of "enclosed, close-knit worlds," I wonder how Gladwell classifies the Beatles? I don't think any one of them had spent more than a few days straight outside of working class Liverpool until they started landing paying gigs.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Another couple for those who seem to think that there is no crossover between genres or that country is always going to be just Hank Williams

Fake ID

Save a horse, Ride a Cowboy

Not saying these are my favorites but, they do show the ebb and flow of music and how the styles borrow from each other.

OK... I DO really like this one S.O.B. What style would anyone say this is? Country, Gospel, Blues, Rock. SOB!!!!

Zach said...

The Beatles, of course, did write some very sad songs...

and usually varied the orchestration for them.

Zach said...

Another interesting case: how do you classify Taylor Swift?

Early career: definitely country. Currently more country-influenced pop.

But is it really fair to call her background as enclosed or close-knit? No more than any other pop star. And it's not like she's a niche case. She's probably a bigger star than any contemporary rock group.

From Wikipedia:
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in Reading, Pennsylvania.[1] Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, was a financial advisor, and her mother, Andrea Gardner Swift (née Finlay), was a homemaker who worked previously as a mutual fund marketing executive.[2] She has a younger brother named Austin.[3] Swift spent the early years of her life on a Christmas tree farm.[4] She attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by Franciscan nuns,[5] before transferring to The Wyndcroft School.[6] The family then moved to a rented house in the suburban town of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania,[7] where she attended Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.[8]

At the age of nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions.[9] She also traveled regularly to New York City for vocal and acting lessons.[10] Swift later shifted her focus toward country music inspired by Shania Twain's songs, which made her "want to just run around the block four times and daydream about everything".[11] She spent her weekends performing at local festivals and events.[12][13] After watching a documentary about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure that she needed to go to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music career.[14] At the age of eleven, she traveled with her mother to visit Nashville record labels and submitted a demo tape of Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks karaoke covers.[15]


By any fair standard, Swift's upbringing is a million times more cosmopolitan than the Beatles. You should never confuse genre for biography.

n.n said...

Diverse as in individuals, distinguished by the content of their character, or classes including race, sex, etc., distinguished by the "color of their skin"?

The progressive meaning of diversity in liberal societies refers to the latter.

Johanna Lapp said...

The saddest country song is either "Don't Let Me Come Home a Stranger" or "All Broken Hearts Are the Same." "Standing Knee-Deep in a River (and Dying of Thirst)" takes the bronze.

Ipso Fatso said...

To RH above who cited Wayne Kemp--you are a man after my own heart!! "Your Wife Is Cheatin' On Us Again" is a great choice.

I have two: "It Was Always So Easy to Find An Unhappy Woman Til I Started Looking For Mine," By Moe Bandy.

"If You Want To Keep Your Beer Cold, Put It Next To My Ex-Wife's Heart."

William Freiman said...

Sister Rosetta Tharp....I wondered if I'd ever be able to agree with the Toothless One, and what could be sadder than "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goal Post Of Life"....

Ipso Fatso said...

Also "Shut Up & Drink Your Beer" by Norm Wade is a good honky tonker.

Skookum John said...

"Your Long Journey" always gets me. The Doc Watson version is plaintive enough but Alison Krause kicked it up a couple of notches. I think she covered it with Heart first, but it really needs to be a male-female duet, and the version she did with Robert Plant is the killer. They played it at my dad's funeral and there was not a dry eye.

https://youtu.be/eG_rArV84iY

Unknown said...

I have to grab a hankie every time I hear "Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreen's (and I Cried All the Way to Sears)".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8Urt7SKLI0

Seems to me that if C&W were so much better than R&R, then you'd have rock artists making covers of C&W hits, instead of so many good rock songs being made into inferior C&W covers.

Bob R said...

Henry @9:59 mentioned Jason Isbell. I think of him as more Southern Rock and Folk than country, but if you want to call him country, go ahead. The song "If We Were Vampires," from his latest album is getting a lot of attention. The last two years, we've been dealing with the death of my wife's mother, dealing with her father's depression and dementia, and finally his death. I found Vampires to be unbearably sad at first, but I'm coming around to the point where it doesn't automatically bring tears to my eyes. It obviously doesn't effect everyone that way.

Another observation about Jason - I like to describe his album Southeastern as one where, on the second saddest song, the second creepiest character is an incestuous child molester.

Bob R said...

effect/affect - crap.

eddie willers said...

I Think the George Jones song will be the top song.

Others for your consideration:

Sad but hopeful (played at my father's funeral) Vince Gill
Go Rest High on That Mountain

Most heartbroken Hank Williams song: Alone and Forsaken (Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler cover)

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Hard to pick the overall saddest country song. There are individual lines in so many songs that pull a special string of sadness. Yet so often there is also a thread of restoration or redemption or hope.

Consider witnessing the burial of your mother. Will the Circle be Unbroken?

For loneliness, The Prisoner's Song is a good pick. Consider also Sunday Morning Coming Down. Been stuck out many times with a broken airplane at Bumfuck AFB, but I always imagine that "sleepy Sunday sidewalk" on a day with a bright sun.

I do think for the more fundamental emotional imagery we must pass through the veneer of Country to the heart of Bluegrass.

Harold Montgomery said...

Seeds and stems again blues. Hands down.

richardsson said...

Well, before you decide on the saddest song you've ever heard, I suggest Frank Sinatra or Linda Ronstadt's version of Gordon Jenkins song Goodbye. They're available on YouTube. Neither are country or rock but Nelson Riddle arrangements. The problem with Malcolm Gladwell is that he knows a lot about some things and almost nothing about other things and talks about them with assumed equal authority.

Country music was far from an isolated music. 100 years ago, Bob Dunn as a child went to a circus in Oklahoma and heard a group of Hawaiian musicians playing their music. Later, he took lessons from Walter Komonomuku on Hawaiian Guitar. He wasn't the inventor of the electric steel guitar used in country music but was the first to make a record with one (Takin' Off - Milton Brown and his Brownies, 1935.) I once had a professor of history who complained that during World War II, there was nothing on the radio except country music. It took a lot of self control for me to keep from laughing out loud.

Dunn's rival was Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys and both bands were described as Western Swing Bands. Wills was strongly influenced by New Orleans Jazz He played his arrangements of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton songs. His most famous composition was San Antonio Rose which opened with country riff and then went to the second riff which was mariachi.

Of course, Hank Williams came along in the 50's with a vocal centered and simplified music, but that reflected the end of the swing era. Pop, R&B, and eventually Rock became more vocal and less instrumental.

richardsson said...

Correction -- Bob Dunn's rival was Leon McAulliffe, steel guitar player with Bob Wills; Bob Wills was Milton Brown's rival.

eddie willers said...

He wasn't the inventor of the electric steel guitar used in country music

My daddy always called pedal steel guitars HI wah yun GEET tars.

He bought me my first album: Johnny Horton's Greatest Hits.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Have you heard Toby Keith's Red Solo Cup? That would be my nomination for the saddest country song of all time. Oh, that's not what was meant by sad?

George Jones might have won for He Stopped Loving Her Today in 2000, before Malcolm Gladwell tipped his point. But today both Google and Rolling Stone Magazine agree that the saddest country song is Martina McBride's Concrete Angel. I know, Althouse will say the use of children is unfair.

PJ said...

If we're talking current-era sad country, I'll nominate Vince Gill's "Kid Sister," performed by the Time Jumpers.

EMyrt said...

Bob Ellison

The Online Etymology Dictionary should be your first stop.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=irk

I am Myrt

Jennifer Johnson said...

Saddest song ever, "Marie" by Townes Van Zandt.

Ed Longshanks said...

I agree with you here. I originally thought "Your Cheating Heart" but then realized that "He Stopped Loving Her Today" has a sadder feel - although the "feel" of George Jones is not really depressive, he's telling of the glory of an everlasting love, even if it was one-sided.

Have you heard what you get if you backmask a country song? Your wife comes back, you get your pickup back, and your dog returns home.

Jeff Gee said...

Alison Krauss & Union Station cover The Foundation's "Baby, Now That I've Found You" and dig deep inside it, find something heartbreaking.

Ken Gough said...

"Country music" was, from the very beginning, a blend of English/Scots/Irish/American folk music, particularly the varieties preserved in the isolated communities of the Appalachian Mountains, jazz, blues, and American pop music that musicians in even the most remote places were hearing on the radio by the middle of the 1920s. At the famous "Bristol Sessions" held in the heart of Appalachia in a town straddling the Tennessee/Virginia state line, considered the "big bang of country music", musicians came from as far away as Louisiana to record. The first great star of country music, Jimmy Rogers, based his songs in the blues and often recorded with jazz musicians. Later, Chet Atkins, the great guitarist and producer, helped create "The Nashville Sound" by infusing large helpings of smooth pop music into his arrangements. Anyone who thinks country music was the product of an insular culture is sadly misinformed.

The saddest country song of all time is Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".

steve l said...

there are really just two types of music; good & bad
my favorite version of "he stopped loving her today" and the other song as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbWNNmCYGN8

BAS said...

What a great thread.
I learned some new songs.
I would say The Gambler could compete for the saddest song.

Segesta said...

Had Gladwell used heavy metal as an example of "an enclosed world" he'd be on to something. I'm a metal fan but it has resisted outside influences very successfully. For example, the chorus riff on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath from 45 years ago could be from one of today's metal bands.

Don Allen said...

I agree with Dust Bunny Queen. When I call your name. Vince Gill

bigred1961 said...

I don't know if it's the saddest song ever, but Vince Gill and Patty Loveless performance of "Go rest high on that mountain" at George Jones' funeral is the most heart wrenching performance I have ever seen.

Robert Burns said...

Harold Montgomery ..you beat mr to it

Seeds and stems

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGsq1K7f_yc

so sad one has to laugh

Pianoman said...

Looks like virtue-signaling to me.

Funny thing .. normally you see this level of signaling coming from the classical music folks. They typically turn up their noses at any kind of "popular" music. Leftist virtue-signaling is normally deployed when trying to draw distinctions between opera and heavy metal, for instance. Or the superiority of the symphony versus pop music. "Concertos, Not Carrie Underwood".

This is a new approach in trying to separate rock from country. Pretty funny, IMHO.

To try and distinguish between these two genres .. as has been pointed out several times, both genres borrowed and exchanged extensively with each other. Both rock 'n roll and country have their roots in early 20th century blues, gospel, and folk music. And Jazz music weaves in and out of everything else.

You can lump it all together into "American 20th Century Popular Music" if you like. But to claim one is superior to the other .. meh, you may as well ask a classical music fan to declare which composer is the best of all time.


JohnSteele said...

i'm betting on I'm So Lonesome, but Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain deserves a mention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crgtWomWg90

Lee said...

I would suggest "Last Letter" by Rex Griffin, which some call the first honky tong song.

Country music has always absorbed popular and ethnic musics into its base of old time music. Jazz was absorbed in the 20s and 30s, and what became country fiddle is heavily jazz inflected. Also in the 20s it absorbed the blues as characterized by Jimmie Rodgers' blue yodels. "T for Texas" is classic 12 bar blues. In the 50s country absorbed rhythm and blues via Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry. Haley pioneered rock and roll when he asked the prophetic question, "Why can't a country band play rhythm and blues." Elvis was essentially a country/pop singer who sang rhythm and blues with a bluegrass tempo. Chuck Berry was Elvis' mirror -- a R&B singer who sang country. It is instructive that "Mabellene" was a reworking or the old fiddle tune "Ida Red." In his bio Berry even called himself a country singer!

RichardJohnson said...

"Music that comes out of an enclosed, close-knit world.."

It would appear that Malcolm Gladwell has never heard of Bob Wills.(It would appear that our Toothless Revolutionary hasn't either, for that matter.)

Blues: Milk Cow Blues.
Traditional(folk) music: Ida Red. Folk plus jazz. Ida Red was the inspiration for Chuck Berry's Maybelline.

For sad, consider Faded Love.



Even Mick Jagger knows Bob Wills is Still the King.

Bradoplata said...

Who ever said country music isn't about sex hasn't listened to much Conway Twitty.

Pianoman said...

By the way -- country music had a 20-year head start on rock 'n roll. Louis Jordan didn't achieve mainstream success until the late 1940's, and country recordings had been doing as early as the 20s. There's no question that country influenced the early days of rock 'n roll.

That's not a convenient fact for Gladwell's Narrative though, so it'll be ignored Because Shut Up.

Guildofcannonballs said...

I sang Dixie as he died
The people just walked on by as I cried
The bottle had robbed him of all his rebel pride
So I sang Dixie as he died
He said way down yonder in the land of cotton
Old times there ain't near as rotten as they are
On this damned old L.A. street
Then he drew a dying breath
And laid his head against my chest
Please Lord take his soul back home to Dixie
He said listen to me son while you still can
Run back home to that Southern land
Don't you see what life here has done to me?
Then he closed those old blue eyes
And fell limp against my side
No more pain, now he's safe back home in Dixie
He said listen to me son while you still can
Run back home to that Southern land
Don't you see what life here has done to me?
Then he closed those old blue eyes
And fell limp against my side
No more pain, now he's safe back home in Dixie
I sang Dixie as he died
The people just walked on by as I cried
The bottle had robbed him of all his rebel pride
So I sang Dixie as he died
I sang Dixie as he died
Songwriters: Dwight Yoakam

Sean E said...

Y'all need to take another look at them lyrics to Lucille. The singer isn't the husband. It's from the POV of a guy who met Lucille at a bar, and couldn't consummate the the tryst after the husband came to the bar and begged Lucille to take him back. No murders.

BJM said...

DBQ nails it...how much more diverse could a music genre be than her list of styles/influences?

Gladwell obviously didn't do much research...a quick Google disproves his premise.

In 1790, historians estimate Kentucky's population was English (52%), Scots-Irish or Scots (25%), Irish (9%), Welsh, (7%), German (5%), French (2%), Dutch (1%), and Swedish (0.2%) in ethnicity.


Wry Mouth said...

"I Got Tears in my Ears from Lyin on my Back in my Bed While Cryin' Over You"

Michael Bane said...

Speaking as the author of WHITE BOY SINGIN' THE BLUES, which has been listed among the top five book ever written on understanding American popular music and race and is still used as a text on popular culture in numerous university courses; speaking as the former editor in chief of COUNTRY MUSIC Magazine; speaking as the author whose work was recently reprinted in the Oxford University Press book of country music; speaking as someone who has read PhD theses based on his work...Malcolm Gladwell doesn't know shit about music.

And the saddest country song ever written is I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY.

Jesus, gimme a break!

Michael Bane

Guildofcannonballs said...

"8. Love Hurts
Boudleaux Bryant’s song had been a huge hit for the Everly Brothers in 1960, and, in 1975, both Jim Capaldi and Nazareth would have hits with it. Parsons’s version is slowed down compared to the comparatively spritely Everlys version, and singing it as a duet with Emmylou Harris changed its meaning: it’s no longer the sound of reflection, it’s two broken-hearted people confronting each other with the depth of their misery. Parsons’ voice cracks and quivers; Harris counters him with purity and clarity: their harmonising is as beautiful as pop singing gets. And when they reach the middle eight – “Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness” – Parsons takes the second syllable of togetherness a notch higher than the Everlys and into a minor key. In that slight change of note, the smallest alteration, over in seconds, lies the sound of desperation. “Love is just a lie, made to make you blue,” they sing, and you know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true. If it were, they wouldn’t need to tell us love is a lie."

https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2015/jul/29/gram-parsons-10-of-the-best

Guildofcannonballs said...

"Beginnings[edit]
Boudleaux Bryant was born in Shellman, Georgia in 1920 and attended local schools as a child. He trained as a classical violinist. Although he performed with the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra during its 1937-38 season, he had more interest in country "fiddling."
He joined Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys, an Atlanta-based western music band. In 1945 Bryant met Matilda Genevieve Scaduto, whom he called Felice, while performing at a hotel in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was born in the city in 1925 to an ethnic Italian family. She used to write lyrics to traditional Italian tunes. During World War II, she sang and directed shows at the local USO.[2]
Bryant and Scaduto eloped two days after meeting.[2] Their song, "All I Have To Do Is Dream," is autobiographical for Felice. She was working as an elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel when she saw Bryant. She has said that she "recognized" him immediately; she had seen his face in a dream when she was eight years old, and had "looked for him forever." She was nineteen when they met."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felice_and_Boudleaux_Bryant

Guildofcannonballs said...

Continued:
"Beginning in 1957, the Bryants came to national prominence in both country and pop music when they wrote a string of hugely successful songs for the Everly Brothers[1] and hits for other singers such as Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly. Their compositions were recorded by many artists from a variety of musical genres, including Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Bob Moore, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, The Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Gram Parsons, and Bob Dylan. (Dylan's Self Portrait album has a song by Felice and another she co-wrote with her husband).

In 1962, The Bryants wrote "Too Many Chicks," a song that became a hit for Leona Douglas, the first African-American woman to record as a country and western singer. Leona was discovered by Fred Foster of Monument Records. Foster also noticed that Boudleaux had a secretary named Bobby McKee. He suggested that Kris Kristofferson use her name in a song, which was written as "Me and Bobby McGee."[3]"

Nashveganite said...

Someone pretty far upstream of me in he comments observed that the difference between country/hillbilly and rock 'n' roll was that country was written for for adults and rock 'n' roll for children. Close, but inaccurate and a little incomplete. While musically R&R was undoubtedly a great mashup of hillbilly, blues, jump blues and R&B, as a commodity, EVERY genre before the mid-fifties was written for adults -- except children's songs.

Rock 'n' roll was marketed to TEENAGERS, a species that didn't exist before "the greatest generation" initiated pax Americana prosperity after surviving the war. Before them (and Dr. Benjamin Spock), one jumped from childhood to adulthood and most children were anxious to become adults. Once teenagers (and the cheap 45 RPM record) existed, there was both an audience and a means of distribution for R&R.

And as those teenagers extended their childhood into college years, they were perfectly poised to follow the morphing of Rock 'n' roll into ROCK. In terms of lyrical subject matter and target audience, all pop music genres were addressed to adults. What interest could a 12 year-old girl have in He Stopped Loving Her Today? Or Hellhound on My Trail. Or Caldonia. But once there were teenagers Chuck Berry, Lieber & Stoller, and Buddy Holly were prepared to give 'em what they wanted. Yeah, there had been bobby-soxers, but they were headed for adulthood because their parents would accept nothing else. Teenagers had indulgent parents, disposable income and by the end of the fifties most likely their own record players in their rooms.

It's something to bear in mind.

BudBrown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilbur said...

Glad to see Moe Bandy mentioned above.

Three come to mind:
"To Daddy" written by Dolly and hauntingly recorded by Emmylou Harris
"If we Make It Through December" - Merle Haggard with the saddest Christmas song ever
"Lonesome 7-7203" Justin Tubb wrote it - Hawkshaw Hawkins recorded it.

The fact that David Allen Coe pronounces a song as the "perfect" country western song doesn't mean that it is. I hate that weak parody almost as much as "Go Cubs Go". This Cub fan hates it more than any Brewers fan alive.

mikeski said...

There's plenty of "sad" in rock/pop music, even today... it just doesn't make the "corporate music" top 40.

Way down
I've been way down
Underneath this skin
Waiting to hear my name again

I'm sorry
Nothing can hold me
I adore you still
But I hear them calling
And nothing can hold me

Way down
All the way down
I will hear your voice
But I'll no longer understand...


...a person in a coma, waiting to hear their loved one's voice one last time before they pass on.

If I closed my eyes
And fell asleep in this lay-by
Would it all subside
The fever pushing the day by

Motor window wind
I could do with some fresh air
Can't breathe too well

(She waits for me.
Home waits for me.)

I guess I should go now
She's waiting to make up
To tell me she's sorry
And how much she missed me
I guess I'm just burnt out
I really should slow down
I'm perfectly fine but
I just need to lie down

We'll grow old together
We'll grow old together
We'll grow old together


...a man has an argument with his wife, drives off angry, stops at a rest area (British: lay-by), decides to go back and make up, but falls asleep and dies of a heart attack first.

Ben Cremeens said...

I am surprised to see a discussion of sad country that does not include John Conlee's "Emily's Picture", Vern Gosdin's "Chiseled in Stone", or any of the "lesser" Jones songs like "Things Have Gone to Pieces" or "Just One More". I've always been fond of the melancholy of "One Dyin' and a Buryin'" by Roger Miller as well.

Oddly enough, the only song I've really cried to has been Faron Young's "Hello Walls", but you had to be there, and be that recently divorced, and be that drunk.

Rocketeer said...

"You Are My Sunshine", Hank Willams Sr. Listen to it - all of it.

Dean Kaufman said...

"Writing on the Wall" by Russell Smith or "Lake Charles" by Lucinda Williams

stevo said...

Honorable mention to Lyle Lovett's "I married her just because she looks like you"