Country Music Legends

Country music is usually associated with the South, which has an identifiable culture that is usually quite separate from the rest of the country. It was originally referenced as “Hillbilly Music,” and came from folk music. Country music is filled with many real topics and tends to be filled with lots of emotion and sentiments. Topics for country songs include: love, nostalgia, and patriotism. This style of music tends to stand out due to very strong dialects and the use of different grammar rules. Lastly, country music usually uses string instruments, including the fiddle, banjo, guitar, and mandolin. As time passes on and different techniques are combined with the first wave of country music, more and more instruments (piano, saxophones, and trumpets) have been added to the typical country sound.

220px-Jimmie_Rodgers.jpgJimmie Rodgers is frequently referred to as the father of country music. He was born in 1897 in Meridian, Mississippi and is very well known for his introduction to yodeling. Rodgers worked out on the railroads where he learned to play a guitar and listened to many of the workers chant songs and tunes. Once Rodgers was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, he quit working at the railroad and moved to Asheville where he did his first performance at a radio station. Rodgers was one of the first people to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961.

One of Rodgers biggest innovations would be the introduction of the blue yodel style of singing. Yodeling is distinct as it uses a long note that changes in pitch by switching back and forth between a high falsetto and the normally used pitch. The falsetto is when the voice goes higher than normal. Not only does the yodel have a vocal component, but it can also help signal the end of a stanza. He used his guitar to help accompany the yodeling. Most of his songs use the twelve bar blues form (AAB).

Many current-day stars have done covers of Rodgers work, including Lynyrd Skynyrd doing a cover of “Blue Yodel No. 1.” Bob Dylan also made a Jimmie Rodgers tribute album with many celebrities, including Bono and Willie Nelson, performing his songs. Rodgers has won countless awards and many people respect his influence and look up to him.

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Another influential country musician is Hank Williams. Williams was born in 1923 in Mount Olive, Alabama. He was a storyteller and wrote about his own experiences. Williams brought about an image of a cowboy, with his band named the Drifting Cowboys and his symbolized cowboy outfit. The Drifting Cowboys often used the fiddle along with guitar, steel guitar, and bass. Sometimes Williams would employ a technique called the sobbing break in voice where his voice would crack during extremely emotional songs. This is extremely prevalent in the song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Popular artists have also made a tribute album with Williams’ songs. Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and The Rolling Stones have all mentioned Hank Williams as an influential person in their music career. Williams made his way into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 and his legacy continues with his children and grandchildren. Williams’ music later paved the way for honky-tonk music.

Bob Dylan: “I became aware that in Hank’s recorded songs were the archetype rules of poetic songwriting. The architectural forms are like marble pillars” (New York Times, 2011).


Alan Jackson: “There’s a lot of magic still left in these songs” (New York Times, 2011).

Recently, a young boy has just made his claim to fame with a clip of him yodeling at Walmart. Mason Ramsey has risen to the top with his cover of Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues.” After Ramsey’s video went viral,”Lovesick Blues” soared to the top of the charts on Spotify and many of his older songs are being brought back into the spotlight. Williams has influenced people of all ages and his legacy continues to rise as more and more people continue the yodeling sound.

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Other styles of country music have evolved. Honky-tonk was a style made for the new booming country industry, with louder and more dominant instruments. If one imagines downtown Nashville with the bright and loud bars, saloons, or even dance halls, you are probably imagining honky-tonk music. This style is very typical of bar music. Bob Wills is known for brining Western swing into the spotlight. Wills learned a lot about music from the men he worked with while in the cotton fields. Western swing was more or less a mixture of country and jazz. Major instruments used in this style were saxophones, drums, and trumpets. Bob Wills is very well known for his song “Cotton-eyed Joe,” which is mostly known as a square dance. Wills helped make the steel guitar a key factor in country music. Square dancing became very popular due to this music.


Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_music

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmie_Rodgers_(country_singer)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Williams

https://www.amazon.com/Honky-Tonk-Heroes-Kris-Kristofferson/dp/B00004LMAS

https://www.amazon.com/Riding-Your-Way-Transcriptions-1946-1947/dp/B00IQ8TRZM

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/hank-williams/biography

https://www.rollingstone.com/country/news/how-yodeling-walmart-kid-gave-new-life-to-lovesick-blues-w518952

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/arts/music/bob-dylan-assembles-the-lost-notebooks-of-hank-williams.html

 

Robert Johnson – His Legacy on the Blues

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https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/devils-music-myth-robert-johnson/

Robert Johnson was a very influential singer-songwriter during the Blues era. He was born in Mississippi in the early 1900s and was a rather well-educated child for the time. He unfortunately died at the young age of 27 years old (Wikipedia, “Robert Johnson”). Not much is known about Johnson and much of his life remains a mystery. Johnson would later be known for his use of the bottleneck style on the guitar, which used a broken bottle top to slide over the guitar strings. The sound made mimicked the sound of a wailing human. This technique gave the music more variability and flexibility in its style. Johnson helped transform the country blues into the modern blues.

Johnson is known for many different songs, including: “Preachin’ Blues,” “Cross Road Blues,” “Love in Vain,” and “Hellhound on my Trail.”


“Preachin’ Blues” came out in 1936. This song utilizes the twelve bar blues form (AAB) and is dominated by the bottleneck style of the guitar. The singing gives the song some soul and power, and it also adds another layer of texture. The combination of the voice and the guitar evoke a powerful message and are very expressive. However, the vocals and the musical instruments don’t necessarily play together, but rather they are in dissonance with each other. I think this song was very dramatic and different for its time. The way Johnson uses the guitar allows him to add his own style which became more recognized throughout the rest of the century. The lyrics are more mysterious in this song.  He refers to the Blues as an “achin’ old heart disease” (genius.com). He goes on to say that it is slowly killing him. This could be taken as a call for help, but once again it is up to interpretation. Many notable musicians have covered this song, including The Rolling Stones and Led Zepellin. He carved the way for many famous rock-and-rock singers of future generations (rockhall.com).


“Crossroad Blues” is another prime example of Robert Johnson’s legacy on music, which also came out in 1936. This song also uses the bottleneck style. The song has some debate about its meaning. It literally talks about the difficulty he found trying to find a ride at a crossroad and how he asked for mercy from God (Wikipedia, Crossroad Blues). However, many people think it refers to the place where he sold his soul to the Devil in return for being a good musician. Because little is known about Johnson, it is up for interpretation. In this song, the lyrics and the instruments are played more synonymously in consonance; instead of trying to out-compete the other, they work together to tell the story. This one is a little slower than “Preachin’ Blues” and it reflects the sadder message behind it.


The last example of Johnson’s work is “Love in Vain.” This is a love song and has a much slower tempo. The rhythm reflects the sadness behind the message. You don’t hear the bottleneck style as much, but rather a regular guitar. It is a quintessential Delta blues song. Many of his songs repeat the same lyrics multiple times, and this is observed in this song as well (Wikipedia, Love in Vain).


Sources:

http://www.robertjohnsonbluesfoundation.org/music/robert-johnson-centennial-collection/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Johnson

https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/robert-johnson

http://idliketocallyourattentionto.blogspot.com/2007/09/preaching-blues-robert-johnson.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_Road_Blues

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_Vain

https://genius.com/Robert-johnson-preachin-blues-up-jumped-the-devil-lyrics

 

Music. Family. Traditions

Music brings people together. It reflects traditions. It creates memories.

Music means something different for everyone. For some, music is an escape or an avenue for expression. For others, it brings back memories of the past. For me, it is a way to relax or change the mood. Whenever I am sad, I can put on a fast paced song that I can sing along with and suddenly I forget why I’m upset. Music also is a a way to connect my friends and families. When we go on car rides or road trips, we all take turns putting on different songs. Now with Spotify and different streaming sites, it is so much easier to bring back old songs to explore more and more varieties of music.

A few years ago I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was a new experience and getting to be a part of a new culture was eye opening. One of the major differences I noticed was the music. While they are very involved and up-to-date in American pop culture, they also have their very own expression. When I walked down the streets with my host family, I constantly heard music that is associated with tango. You could stop at any corner and find people dancing the tango. To them, this music was tradition and represented their country. I loved how music is different for everyone. I think it’s important to have an appreciation and understanding for other cultures because it gives you perspective.

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Music has surely changed over the generations, but overall it has the same power as it did before. I interviewed my family members and asked how music influences them.

Mom: “When I put on my old albums from my youth, it takes me back in time and spurs up good memories. The B-52s remind me of college. Jimmy Buffet reminds me of the time after graduating from college and was my escape from the real world.”

Grandma: “Music calms my soul whenever I am feeling down. I turn on Johnny Mathis and he makes me feel young again.”

Grandpa: “Music can really affect the mood. I am 83 years old and listen to Adele singing about lost love, which makes me feel very melancholy. On the other hand, I listen to the soundtrack from the musical “Hair” and it changes my mood and I become more cheerful and nostalgic.”

Dad: “Growing up I played the clarinet, which sparked my interest and joy for music. Being able to play an instrument really connects you to the music and gives you a new appreciation for it.”

Portfolio Post 1 – Introduction

My name is Rebecca and I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m a biology and psychology major and am hoping to be a doctor. I love to play with my dog and spend time with my friends and family. I’m a huge Atlanta Braves fan, I love trying new foods, and I have a Netflix addiction (especially Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder). My favorite days are Saturdays in Athens (go dawgs). I like to listen to music; however, I don’t know all the technical terms about it. The music I listen to depends on my mood. In the summer I like to listen to country because it reminds me of the beach and going on drives with the windows rolled down. I liked to study to the soundtrack of Harry Potter. I like pop music when I’m on long car rides and need to jam out. Usually, I depend on my friends to show me new songs because I definitely do not keep up with the latest hits.