Thursday, March 22, 2012

Old School Country: The Golden Age of Songwriters

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Through the end of the 1950s and all of the 1960s, rock and roll increasingly dominated the charts, nudging country music into the background. All through the 60s and the early 70s, country languished until it was (once again) saved by pop crossover artists in the late 70s.

The one thing country did have going for it through these years was the most talented generation of songwriters it has ever produced. While none of these individuals are particularly gifted singers, their ability to string together lyrics has remained unsurpassed.

Perhaps the greatest of these songwriters was Hoyt Axton (whose mother co-wrote Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel). His most famous song is likely Joy to the World:

Kris Kristofferson was an athlete, Rhodes Scholar, soldier, helicopter pilot, and almost a professor of English at West Point. He turned down the position and tried his hand at songwriting (inspired by English poet William Blake). His most well-known song is Why Me?

Conway Twitty held the record for the most #1 hits in country music (55) until 2006 (when it was broken by George Strait). His first hit was It's Only Make Believe, which placed first on the pop charts:
A mid-80s hit was I don't Know a thing about love:
And the perennial father's funeral song:

Marty Robbins was the last of the great ballad writers, before that style of country largely died off (though it made occasional comebacks through the 80s and 90s). Devil Woman was one of his early hits:

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