My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
Pick-up Trucks, Guitars and Mama
I have been enjoying watching the Ken Burns series on Country Music on PBS for the past two weeks. If you haven’t seen the series, I strongly recommend it. He is an excellent film-maker, and this may be his best. He says it is the only film he has made that has brought him to tears because of the emotions evoked by the musicians and the music.
I could see why as we watched each evening. The origins of the music pre-date America – having their sources in the folk music of the Irish and Scots who first settled the Appalachians. Many times, new verses were set to old melodies to create a new song.
The transition of the music through all its iterations, styles and influences is a story of America: The influences of the Hillbillies (and that is not a derogatory term), Tennessee, Kentucky Blue Grass, Texas swing and Tex-Mex mix, Cowboys, the Okies and their impact on California, especially on Bakersfield. I have such a respect for the musical talent that was handed down from family to family and region to region. Often music was the only thing these people had to cling to. We are all richer for their remarkable contribution to American music history.
I grew up listening to Roy Orbison, Neil Diamond, the Byrds and Credence, never giving Country a second thought. I had some minor exposure while living (in exile) in Nebraska, but nothing major. It was always there, and I do recall many of the songs from the past, but I never was a conscious Country fan.
That began to change when I went to a performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville several years ago. The show was great; the musicians outstanding. I began to listen more to Country music. Listening on Pandora and Sirius has increased my exposure. Anyone who has ridden in my car with me knows that my car radio is always tuned to Willie’s Road House! I listen often and appreciate Country music, especially the classics…Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, etc., among many others.
I think the late great Man in Black, Johnny Cash, said it best: “Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does.”