Monday, 4 March 2013

Legendary Country Music: The Top 20 Country Songs of All Time

Country music has always been a bigger and more inclusive genre than its critics have given it credit for. Before the rise of country-pop as popularized in the '90's by the likes of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, there was a diverse cast of voices and sounds, with roots from canyon country in Southern California to the Deep South. A list of top 20 country songs from before the modern era might contain a few surprises.

#20 El Paso, by Marty Robbins. This Grammy hit was created in 1959 and was a crossover into country pop for Robbins. Later on the song was also recorded by the Grateful Dead.

#19 Big River, by Johnny Cash. This song was released by Sun Records as a single in 1958, where it reached #4 on the charts. The Dead version of this song becoming legendary and one of Cash's most cherished and aired songs.

#18 Cold, Cold Heart, by Hank Williams. In 1951 this blues balland really represented the honky-tonk era of the 50's, especially the early 50's. Then Tony Bennett went and recorded a pop version of the song which hit #1 on the charts.

#17 Walkin' After Midnight, written by Donn Hecht and sung by Patsy Cline. This peripatetic heartbreaker was a highlight of Cline's long, productive career.

#16 The Ballad of Jed Clampett, by Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, and Jerry Scoggins. This instantly know song became a hit when it became the them for "The Beverly Hillbillies," in 1962 and that caused contry and bluegrass to reach a massive audience spread.

#15 I'm a Lonesome Fugitive, written by Liz Anderson and sung by Merle Haggard. This was a song that topped the charts at #3 in 1967, and it really helped outline what "Outlaw Country" was and become the Bakersfield sound for many generations to follow.

#14, John Henry, by DeFord Bailey. One of the greatest African-American country music stars before the mid-century, Baily scripted and performed this song to honor the working man.

#13 Hickory Wind, by Gram Parsons and Bob Buchanan. The short-lived Parsons burned his candle at both ends, dying of a drug overdose at the age of 26 in 1973. His influence can still be felt, however, in songs such as Hickory Wind, which tells the story of a lost childhood amid the emotional pain of worldly success without happiness.

#12 Me and Bobby Mcgee, Kris Kristofferson. Roger Miller originally sung this song in 1969 where it surfaced as a hit, but more konwn for this song is the legendary Kris Kristofereson. The story tells of a love affair that was doomed for failure which took place on one of many road trips.

#11 Ballad of Easy Rider, written by Roger McGuinn and performed by the Byrds. This song became the theme and title of the 1969 film, and its mood of disillusionment and spiritual loss came to symbolize the end of the protest era.

The above being just the tip of the top 20 country songs iceberg, but this gives you an idea of where the modern country pop genre stems from.

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