JimCT

Country Music, by Ken Burns

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posted in the TV forum as well

debuts Sept. 15

https://nyti.ms/2LAgYTu

Country Music as Melting Pot

The new documentary series by Ken Burns aims to remind divided Americans of what they have in common.

By Margaret Renkl

Contributing Opinion Writer

Sept. 9, 2019

NASHVILLE — Last spring at the Ryman Auditorium, sitting in the audience for a concert filmed to celebrate the new documentary series by Ken Burns, I couldn’t help but notice that the folks around me didn’t look much like the usual bro-country fans swarming Nashville these days. Just who exactly was this documentary aiming to reach?

All of us, it turns out. People of every age, every political persuasion, every socio-economic class, every race. The goal of “Country Music” is nothing less than to remind us of who we really are. Even its cover image is designed to evoke the American flag.

Country music, Mr. Burns explained at the concert, is “a uniquely American art form,” one whose signature instruments, the banjo and the fiddle, continue to transmit the disparate cultures, African and European, from which the music sprang. “Country music has never been one style of music,” Mr. Burns said. “It has always been a mixture of many styles, springing from many roots and sprouting many new branches to create a complicated chorus of American voices joining together to tell a complicated American story.”

For the sake of a television audience that might be unfamiliar with country music, all the famous stories are here. How Hank Williams, “the Hillbilly Shakespeare,” died in the back seat of a car during a snowstorm. How a young Willie Nelson drove to Patsy Cline’s house in the middle of the night to play her the demo for “Crazy,” a song he’d considered calling “Stupid.” How Dolly Parton finally convinced Porter Wagoner to let her leave his television show by singing “I Will Always Love You,” which she’d written for just that purpose. How Merle Haggard was an inmate in the audience during Johnny Cash’s first concert at San Quentin prison. How Loretta Lynn, instructed not to hug Charley Pride onstage at the Country Music Awards, defied orders — hugging him and kissing him, too.

But it’s the stories that aren’t yet famous that will have faithful fans of the genre tuning in for every episode of “Country Music.” Mr. Burns’s team listened to 15,000 songs, sifted through more than 100,000 photographs and 600 hours of archival footage, much of it never before published, and conducted 101 on-camera interviews with country legends. The concert at the Ryman — which aired last night on PBS — featured many of the stars who speak in the documentary.

Even so, it took a lot of courage to introduce this program at the mother church of country music. Half the people in this town are pickers, and the other half are music critics, professional or self-professed. But that hometown audience at the Ryman gasped out loud when a teenage Willie Nelson appeared in a photograph on the screen above the stage. “Country Music,” it turns out, can surprise even Music City.

One of the best decisions Mr. Burns made was to tell the story of country music primarily through its artists — those who knew the legends personally and now carry on their art — rather than through historians or critics. The result is a film that is both historically compelling and richly human. “Burns lifts these characters out of the history books and makes them rounded, imperfect humans,” said Craig Havighurst, a Nashville music journalist and the author of “Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City.” “The Carter Family’s complexities and the tenacity and creative spirit of Mother Maybelle are made more vivid here than in any book I’ve read or documentary I’ve seen.”

The singer-songwriter Vince Gill served as a consultant for the documentary, an experience that inspired him to call his own new album “Okie.” “After watching the ‘Country Music’ film and learning about the origins of this music, from people of all backgrounds and races, I appreciated that Okies aren’t that different from other groups who were scorned and stereotyped,” he said. “They were hard-working people who were willing to do whatever it took to survive during one of our country’s most challenging times. The people I grew up with were fair-minded and grounded by common sense. They have given me the values and traits I’ve carried with me on my life’s journey, and they have inspired and created some of the best music I have ever heard.”

Because country music is so strongly associated with white working-class people in the South, many of the same stereotypes that reduced impoverished farmers to “Okies” during the Dust Bowl years are still assigned to country music itself. But Mr. Burns takes pains to complicate these expectations, to highlight not just the story of an art form with roots in both slave quarters and mountain cabins but also the moral evolution of some of the genre’s most prominent musicians.

When word first got out that Charley Pride is black, many radio stations refused to play Mr. Pride’s record. “You son of a bitch, you go back there and tell that son of a bitch that manages your station if he takes Charley Pride off,” Faron Young told one of them, “take all my records off.” It was country star Tom T. Hall who urged Johnny Rodriguez, the young Mexican-American country singer whose manager called him Johnny Rogers, to come to Nashville and reclaim his name. The audience, he said, would come around.

More than anyone else, Johnny Cash pushed the country music establishment to embrace new artists and enfold new musical forms. Mr. Cash used the platform of his weekly network TV show to celebrate diversity and what his daughter Roseanne Cash calls the “ecumenical attitude he had toward all music.” Guests included Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, the Who, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell. When network executives said Pete Seeger was too left-wing for the show, Mr. Cash ignored them. Mr. Seeger appeared anyway.

As Mr. Burns tells it, musical genres were always cross-pollinating. When Ringo Starr recorded a Buck Owens hit, “Act Naturally,” the Beatles released it as the flip side of “Yesterday.” Bob Dylan invited Johnny Cash to play the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and later moved his own recording work to Nashville; the success of “Blonde On Blonde” led a host of other folk and rock artists to Nashville studios, with Nashville session musicians sitting in. And as Willie Nelson observes about the diverse audiences who showed up for his annual Fourth of July concerts in Austin, college students and truck drivers aren’t so different from each other after all: “They’re out there drinking beer, smoking dope, and finding out that they really don’t hate each other,” he said.

Except for one ill-fated attempt to move away, I’ve lived in the South my whole life, and all my people are Southerners, but I didn’t grow up listening to country. My parents played only the Big Band music they’d danced to during their courtship, and the second I got my first transistor radio at age 12, I tuned it to ’70s rock. But as a homesick graduate student in Philadelphia, I found a country station on the radio and fell in love. It gave me what country music has been giving its listeners from the very beginning: a way to feel less alone. That year I gave my parents Willie Nelson’s “Stardust” for Christmas.

Every art form benefits from a gifted teacher, an expert, an evangelist — someone who can explain to the uninitiated or the skeptical or the heedless that, no, this actually isn’t something their toddler could have made in nursery school. Someone who can convey the context in which the art was created, the hopes of its creators, the way they learned from each other and nudged each other to grow. Someone, above all, who can convince you that you will be better, your life more enriched, if you understand it.

Ken Burns, a Brooklyn-born filmmaker, may be an unlikely teacher of country music, but this transcendent documentary, six years in the making, has arrived at a particularly auspicious time. Thinking of Southerners as stupid rednecks and toothless hillbillies has become the last acceptable prejudice in America. Mr. Burns’s comprehensive and nuanced documentary will make for a welcome reconsideration, especially for those who think they understand what country music is (“loving, cheating, hurting, fighting, drinking, pickup trucks and Mother,” as Harold Bradley described the stereotype) and those who think there’s nothing much to understand. As Mr. Havighurst said, “I can’t wait for America to see this and rethink what country music means and how it sounds.”

“Country Music” will begin airing, on PBS affiliate stations and online, Sunday, Sept. 15. “Country Music: Live at The Ryman, a Concert Celebrating the Film by Ken Burns” is streaming now.

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I saw the performances at the Ryman last night, some were good, some not so good.  Shocked how much I loved Vince Gill doing I Will Always Love You.  

 

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Just saw commercial for this.....Looks great.

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On 9/10/2019 at 11:18 AM, took me long enough said:

I cannot fucking wait for this!  

i know ! me too !

i saw Jim's post in the other forum

im very excitted 

 

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1 minute ago, janeymarywendy said:

If this is anything like Mr Burns' Vietnam series, it's gonna be great! 

or Baseball! :) 

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Or Jazz.  :) We are in "Endless Juke Joints," after all. 

Can't wait to see this, but Jeff and I were enmeshed in Mindhunter. Finished the last one tonight. Such a good show.

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"three chords and the truth" :) 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-14/ken-burns-explores-country-music-s-origins-in-new-pbs-series

Ken Burns Explores Country Music’s Origins in New PBS Series

By 

Ros Krasny

September 14, 2019, 6:21 PM EDT

From Appalachian mountain ballads to Folsom Prison Blues

Before Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and arena shows there was a humbler side to country music, arguably the most uniquely American art form. Filmmaker Ken Burns explores that history over 16 hours in a PBS series starting on Sunday.

In the eight-part documentary, Emmy-award winning Burns examines country music through the decades from its hillbilly roots in Scotch-Irish ballads, hymns and blues to mainstream acceptance, perennial debates about what is or isn’t “authentic,” and today’s vast popularity and big business.

“Country music had always been sort-of on that big huge list of 1,000 things that you wanted to do,” said Burns, 66. “It’s phenomenally great music, about people who felt their stories weren’t being told. I think that’s utterly American.”

Among the legends whose work is explored are pioneers like the Carter Family and Bob Wills, along with icons Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, as well as performers including Garth Brooks who helped country cross into the mainstream. Burns and his team interviewed more than 100 people for the project including several, like Merle Haggard, who died during the course of production.

“You can dance to it, you can make love to it, you can play it at a funeral,” said Dolly Parton, the multiple Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter who emerged from the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee to become one of country’s most enduring talents. “It has something in it for everybody.”

Burns is the creator behind PBS series including “Baseball,” “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” and “The Civil War,” the highest-rated series in the network’s history. He directed “Country Music” alongside producer and writer Dayton Duncan and producer Julie Dunfey, both long-time collaborators.

The series will delve into such topics as the prevalence of strong women performers, and the influence of blues, dominated by black Americans.

“The songs are just life,” said Loretta Lynn, 87, a coal miner’s daughter and sometime resident of “Fist City.” “I sing it, or I’ve lived it.” Lynn was briefly shunned by country music radio after penning “The Pill” in 1975, celebrating birth control.

The first episode of “Country Music” -- focused on how homespun music reached a wider audience via radio and phonographs, creating the genre’s first stars -- airs on Sunday at 8pm EDT on PBS and on the PBS video app.

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On 9/11/2019 at 2:29 PM, JimCT said:

or Baseball! :) 

Or the Civil War

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Caught a bit of this last night, not all. Will go back and watch the rest. Two words. Black Face. So prevalent back then. Part of the fabric of early music . Culture clash and collaboration all at once. Creating a sound that defines really all music in this country.

Fascinating stuff.

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It was interesting hearing mention of places very close geographically to me, such as Galax Va., where to this day still hosts the Old Fiddlers Convention each year that draws thousands of people.

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Apparently this will Be On BBC4 but not sure when it starts there.

Bossman

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The Hillbilly Shakespeare !!! I guess i didn't realize that Hank Williams died at 29. Episode 3 was awesome .... So many Hank songs that i took for granted. Jambalaya, Hey Good Lookin' , Cold Cold Heart, You Win Again ( which i knew from The Deads Europe '72.) I only had one song that was actually sung by Hank on My Ipod ... It was the closing theme from "The Last Picture Show" .

 

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