Discussion: Is Loretta Lynn right about today’s country music?

Via The 9513, here’s a quote from Loretta Lynn about country music today:

“It’s hard for me to watch what goes on today, knowing how it started. I think what bothers me mostly is the stuff they get by with. You can hear ‘em put a record out, and it’s absolutely not what it should be. But it gets played, and as long as they get played it’s gonna keep happening. A lot of ‘em don’t have the songs. When I started, you had to have the song. It didn’t matter how good you sang it; it was the song.”

Country Universe’s first discussion question is an interesting one.  Is Loretta right about country music today?  Are the current hits being sold by the singer rather than the song? If true, is that a bad thing?

Talk about it, readers!

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5 Comments

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5 Responses to Discussion: Is Loretta Lynn right about today’s country music?

  1. ramon fernandezNo Gravatar

    Re: Song vs. Singer– Of course Country radio, like all else in America, fell to superstar
    worship–it’s just easier to market a known quantity. And we’re a long way from the 1940s, when a hot song would appear and everyone recorded it. (Imagine Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack all covering “Jesus Take the Wheel” months after Carrie’s version came out.) But Country is still one of the more song-based genres, where an unknown artist will come out with something like “Alyssa Lies” and cause a stir.

    Country, back when it was supposedly pure, was never really that pure. I mean, how many
    non-Country influences show up in the average Bob Wills song?

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I think that Loretta is correct, but only to a degree. The “superstars”, once established , have always had an easier time selling a song to radio than the rank and file performer . What is different is the way momentum works in today’s market. A Hank Thompson, Faron Young or Hank Snow could have a string of hits but also have songs that tanked in the mix – the song had to be good to sell or it wouldn’t automatically reach the top ten. Here’s Ray Price’s Billboard chart line for the 1960s: 2-5-23-5-13-3-26-12-22-5-7-11-2-28-2-34-7-38-2-11-7-28-3-9-8-73-8-11-6-51-11-14-14.

    A three of the four lowest charting entries were “B” sides that happene to chart (the “51” was a song that tanked) but the pattern was clear – the name didn’t ensure a smash. Ray Price, of course would have some more #1s in the 1970s and two of the songs in the sixties string reached #1 according to Cashbox.

    In contrast, every song George Strait issued in a ten year stretch starting in 1982 reached at least #8 except for one B side and a limited distribution single “Hollywood Squares” . George has now had 54 number ones, but only about half of them were memorable songs – released in the 1960s or 1970s some of them would have stalled out in the mid 20s. Moreover, if Strait ever has four consecutive songs that go 51-11-14-14 or 11-26-17-22 his radio career will be over

    I agree that Country Music has never been pure, but it’s completely contaminated now . But the influences were more limited – also Bob Wills wasn’t really a country artist – he was more of a jazz artist with country influences or a hybrid between the two. Western swing became more country in the hands of other artists such as Hank Thompson and Spade Cooley. If you but listen carefully, you can hear that Cajun, Polka, Western Swing and Polka are essentially the same music played with different instrumentation – this is best exemplified by the music of Jimmy Sturr, America’s number one Polka artist. Jimmy tumbled onto this fact early in his career and has greatly expanded the polka repertoire in the process, as has Tom Brusky, whose recording of “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” is my favorite version of the song

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  4. kendra donahueNo Gravatar

    Loretta is absolutely right!!!!!!!!!!! The songs out there now are basically crap

  5. I blogged this back on Sept. 2, 2006 (“Loretta Lynn and Why YOU Should Listen to Her”) and I hate to say, within the Industry not one thing has changed. Then and now I thak God for artists like Loretta and can only hope that other artists take something away from her shining example.

    Paul