I got this comment from “Christopher” last night about my first post on “Country music week”:
I am unsubscribing from this list after hearing
How you like inbreed country music!! These country hillbillies are dumb and are proud of being dumb!! I didn’t expect this from you! What else do you like fox news??!!
Well, my good man, don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out. I won’t miss you!
Today and the next five days are devoted to my favorite (ergo the best) country songs—at least those that had a life on the pop charts as well. I’m omitting instrumentals, as that would take me too far afield and turn one week into several weeks.
Skeeter Davis (1931-2004) was really named Mary Frances Penick, and nicknamed “Skeeter” after the American southern term for “mosquito.” I really couldn’t name another song she did, though she had a very successful career in country, but this, her signature tune recorded in 1962, was covered by many artists, with the best version, in my view, being Karen Carpenter’s (click the link to hear it). Wikipedia notes this (the song was written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee):
Davis’ recording of “The End of the World” has long been considered one of the foremost examples of the Nashville Sound of the 1960s – smooth vocals and a slick, sophisticated production appealing to audiences far beyond the traditional country music audience. The song was played at Chet Atkins’ funeral in 2001 in an instrumental performance by Marty Stuart and later, Davis’ recording was broadcast over the speakers of her 2004 funeral at the Ryman Auditorium.
This live version is from the Bobby Lord Show in 1965.
Dolly Parton (b. 1946) is simply over the top. I’m not a fan of either her acting or most of her recordings, which sound like Alvin the Chipmunk, but she’s an adept songwriter. Her several thousand compositions include “I will always love you,” made famous by Whitney Houston. “Here you come again”, which I think is her best, was written in 1977 by the famous duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It won Parton a Grammy.
Of all the male country singers who ever lived, I think Randy Travis (b. 1959) has the best voice (Doc Watson and Gordon Lightfoot are close behind): definitely country and nasal but quite beautiful. He’s gone a bit downhill in his troubled later days, but this live performance shows him off well. It’s pure country, both the voice and the lyrics: completely unpretentious and moving. “Deeper than the holler” was written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz and released in 1988.