Three Chords and the Truth

Songwriter Harlan Howard said about country music, ‘It’s three chords and the truth.’ It does not have the sophistication and elegance of jazz. However, Country music is about something else: human emotions and stories told, basically, that everybody experiences.

Premiering tonight on PBS is the eight-part documentary, Country Music a Film by Ken Burns. 

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues, and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music. Country Music features never-before-seen footage and photographs, plus interviews with more than 80 country music artists. The eight-part 16-hour series is directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan, and produced by Julie Dunfey.

Country Music explores questions –– such as “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?“–– while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created and shaped it — from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more — as well as the times in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of hardships and joys shared by everyday people.

Texas Country Legends

I am lucky to live near two of country music’s living legends. Willie Nelson lives just 60 miles up the road near Austin. Plus, George Strait is a San Antonio legend. In fact, the King of Country music is selling a crown jewel of Texas Hill Country real estate, having listed his San Antonio estate for $8.9 million.

Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton are a few of my favorite country musicians. Who are yours?

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Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice

This summer, studios released musical biographies about Freddie Mercury and Elton John. Friday we were treated to yet another.   

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice is a musical biography of one of the most successful and versatile female singers of the 20th century. Ronstadt, at the height of unprecedented success, turned away from pop music to explore an astonishing variety of musical styles. From American standards to country to classical operetta, she eventually circled back to her family roots with traditional Mexican canciones. Linda insisted on following her musical instincts, withstanding constant pressure from a risk-averse industry.

Today Ronstadt has Parkinson’s disease and her magnificent singing voice has been silenced. But rather than letting that voice be lost to history, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice tells Linda’s story through her own words and music. It includes stories from professional colleagues such as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Aaron Neville among others.

My Linda Ronstadt Story

I have to admit, I had a major crush on Linda Ronstadt during High school and college. She wasn’t a glamour queen. Rather, she seemed more comfortable in blue jeans and T-shirts. But it was the voice that always kept me mesmerized.

I only saw her in concert one time. It was a concert at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. She was preceded by Dan Fogelberg and Jackson Browne. Eagles performed after her. 

Although I was a fan I was nothing like my roommate Rex. He owned every one of her albums. I remember the album Simple Dreams more than any other. It contained her hits It’s So Easy, Blue Bayou, and Poor Poor Pitiful Me. She introduced me to standards with What’s New, her 1983 collaboration with Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra. That became my first Linda Ronstadt album and I wore out the grooves. I would put on headphones and imagine she was singing I’ve Got a Crush on You to me.

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Remembering “The People’s Princess”

Shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales—affectionately known as “the People’s Princess”—dies in a car crash in Paris. She was 36. Her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, died as well.

Princess Diana was one of the most popular public figures in the world. Therefore, her death was met with a massive outpouring of grief. Mourners began visiting Kensington Palace immediately. They left bouquets at the home where the princess, also known as Lady Di, would never return. Eventually piles of flowers reached some 30 feet from the palace’s gate.

Dodi and the driver were pronounced dead at the scene. Diana was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital and declared dead at 6:00 am. Also, a fourth passenger, Diana’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, was seriously injured but survived. Her former husband Prince Charles, her sisters, and other members of the Royal Family, arrived in Paris that morning. Diana’s body was then taken back to London.

Living Life Under a Microscope

Like much of her life, her death was a full-blown media sensation, and the subject of many conspiracy theories. At first, the paparazzi hounding the car were blamed for the crash. However, it was later revealed that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. A formal investigation concluded the paparazzi did not cause the collision.

Diana’s funeral in London, on September 6, was watched by over 2 billion people. She was survived by her two sons, Prince William, 15 at the time, and Prince Harry, who was 12.


Goodbye England’s Rose

Candle in the Wind 1997” is a song by Bernie Taupin and Elton John, A re-written and re-recorded version of their 1973 song “Candle in the Wind“. It was released on 13 September 1997 as a tribute single to Diana, Princess of Wales. Global proceeds from the song went to Diana’s charities. The song was written by Taupin, produced by Sir George Martin, and is the second best selling single in history.

The 1997 version won John the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards ceremony in 1998. At the 1998 Brit Awards the song was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Single. The lyrics of the earlier version of “Candle in the Wind”, also written by Taupin, were a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. The opening lines of the 1973 version, “Goodbye Norma Jean, though I never knew you at all,” were adapted to “Goodbye England’s rose, may you ever grow in our hearts.” Most of the lyrics were adapted to suit the circumstances of Diana’s life and death.

Posted in Almanac | 5 Comments