Jennifer Warnes (b. 1947) is best known for popular music; as Wikipedia (link preceding) notes:
Between 1979 and 1987, Warnes surpassed Frank Sinatra as the vocalist performing the most songs to be nominated for anAcademy Award for Best Original Song (four times) and to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song (three times). Her biggest hits include “Up Where We Belong” (a duet with Joe Cocker from the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman) and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (a duet with Bill Medley from the 1987 film, Dirty Dancing).
But the songs mentioned above are schlock. This one, “Right Time of the Night” I count as country, at least in terms of style; it also reached #17 on the American Country and Western chart. (Note also, in the version below, that Warnes is accompanied by steel guitar and wearing cowboy boots.) The song was written by Peter McCann and released by Warnes in 1976. Here she is performing it on “the Midnight Special” a year later:
As with the above song, some will maintain that the next isn’t really a country song, either. Well, all I can say is that Shania Twain (b. 1965 as Eilleen Regina Edwards) is regarded as primarily a country artist. This enormously popular song, “You’re Still the One“, was written by Twain and her producer (and husband) Mutt Lange in 1997. (They were later divorced, and, in a big tabloid scandal, Twain married the husband of the woman for whom Lange left her.) The song was apparently written to dispel rumors of marital troubles between Lange and Twain.
But forget the personal stuff: many country stars have had, well, “colorful” lives. This song won Twain two Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Oh, one scientific point. As the BBC reports, a paper in the journal Vision Research showed that, among white women, Twain had the perfect facial proportions, making Twain, according to the researchers, the most attractive Caucasian woman in the world, and beating out contenders like Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Hurley. They did not examine proportions below the neck, such as the famous (and disputed) evo-pych measure “waist to hip ratio.” But enough; we’re concentrating today on her music:
Some have argued on this site that Gordon Lightfoot (b. 1938) is not a country singer; and, indeed, he crossed over to pop/folk music early in his career. But for those of you who dispute his country cred, have a listen to a cut from what I think is one of the best albums ever recorded (and his first), “Lightfoot!”—an album so rare that I can’t even find it for sale on a brief internet trawl. When it came out in 1966, I damn near wore out my LP with repeated playing. And the music is country.
Every song on that album (including his most famous ones, “The First Time” and “Early Morning Rain”) is a gem. There are several I could have highlighted here (including the beautiful “Changes“, written by Phil Ochs, or the Biblical ballad “Pride of Man“, written by Hamilton Camp; listen at the links). But I like this one best, which I believe was written by Lightfoot. It’s “Sixteen Miles,” a song of lost love. I can’t find a live performance, so here’s the recording:
Note that both Lightfoot and Twain (as well as many other folk and country musicians) are Canadian. I can’t document this, but my impression is that Canada has contributed to North American popular music more than one would predict from its population.