Let’s begin today with my favorite country song of all time: “Galveston“, written by Jim Webb and recorded by Glenn Campbell (b. 1936) in 1969. It’s a simple but beautiful ballad of a soldier (according to Webb, in the Spanish-American war) who, scared to death, dreams of his lover as he goes into battle.
I thought that I was one of the few people who really loved this song, but at least one of the readers mentioned it, and I was pleased to find it occupying position #8 on CMT’s (Country Music Television’s) list of 100 greatest country songs (have a look at the link).
Mel Tillis turned 80 this year, and also received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama for his contributions to country music. I doubt that many of you can name a single one of his songs, as he’s never crossed over into pop. Still, he did one song that I really love: “Send Me Down to Tucson“. It was written by Tillis and recorded in 1979, reaching #2 on the country singles chart.
If you’ve ever heard Tillis speak, you’ll know that he has a severe speech impediment: a bad case of stuttering. Curiously, although he can’t control it when he talks, when he sings it disappears completely. I think this is a common situation for stutterers, but I have no idea why; perhaps a reader can tell us. At any rate, this is a sad ballad about a man who loves a woman besides his wife.
There’s a so-so live version, but here’s the original recording:
Who remembers Gale Garnett? She’s the only country singer I know born in New Zealand (1932), but she later moved to Canada, swelling the sizeable ranks of that country’s folk and country singers.
She had but one big hit in her life, but it was a keeper: “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” written by Garnett and recorded in 1964. It won a Grammy for best folk single, but I’m calling it a country song. And it’s been covered by many artists, including Wayne Newton, Helen Reddy, The Fleetwoods, Sonny and Cher, and, for crying out loud, Dean Martin. The best alternative version, I think, is the duo by Skeeter Davis (whom we heard singing “End of the World” the other day) and Bobby Bare (listen to it here). Skeeter in particular does a great job.
The song was immensely popular in the Sixties, perhaps because it dealt with the exuberant sexuality of the “Free Love” era, but also the sadness underlying those transitory couplings. You can still hear the song all over the oldies stations.
This is the original version, performed live but lip-synched to the record: