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Back before the musical lines were so clearly drawn
September 30, 2012 6:38 AM   Subscribe

In decades past, R&B and soul artists didn't shy away from covering country songs. That's right, children, straight up country songs. And the results were often stunningly good. For example, Al Green's performance of Kris Kristofferson's For the Good Times (best known as a hit for country crooner Ray Price). Or Ray Charles' performance of Eddy Arnold's You Don't Know Me. Or Aretha Franklin's performance of country chestnut You Are My Sunshine, first recorded in 1939 by the Pine Ridge Boys. And...

Percy Sledge, best known for his iconic hit "When a Man Loves a Woman" went full-on country with his cover of Merle Haggard's Mama Tried. Meanwhile, here's Gladys Knight and the Pip's version of a Jim Weatherly tune that was first a hit for, once again, Ray Price, You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.

But let's take this back to where we started, shall we? Back to the great Al Green. Here's his performance of Hank Williams classic I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry and his wonderful rendition of Willie Nelson's Funny How Time Slips Away. Which, by the way, was also covered, with a rather amusing spoken-word introduction, by blues/soul singer Junior Parker.
posted by flapjax at midnite (98 comments total) 84 users marked this as a favorite

 
Applause, flapjax. Applause and thanks.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:41 AM on September 30, 2012


I'll just come out and say it: that first link in this FPP, Al Green's Soul Train appearance, covering For the Good Times, just absolutely blew me away when I heard it for the first time ever, about 45 minutes ago. Good lordy mercy, friends, they just don't make 'em like Al Green anymore. That performance floored me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:42 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and as per usual, I've left out a lot of tunes, hoping that you wonderful music-minded Mefiers out there in Mefiland will fill in some of the blanks for us, here in the comments. Thanking you in advance!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:45 AM on September 30, 2012


That performance floored me.

As I said, Lord have mercy!

Fantastic!
posted by Wolof at 6:55 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like "I Will Always Love You" deserves an honorable mention here.

Great post!
posted by dismas at 7:05 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like "I Will Always Love You" deserves an honorable mention here.

GMTA. Dolly Parton's 1974 version, and Whitney Houston's version from The Bodyguard soundtrack.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:08 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joe Tex, "Funny How Time Slips Away."
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:15 AM on September 30, 2012


The "for the Good Times" video just completely sideswiped me and left me with tears rolling down my face. Absolutely sublime.
posted by chronkite at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


You hit my sweet spot flapjax. Thanks! These are mostly among the top 100 on my iPod.

Look up Stoney Edwards.
posted by spitbull at 7:19 AM on September 30, 2012


Stoney Edwards - "Blackbird" (Chip Taylor, writer; warning contains " n word," albeit used ironically.)
posted by spitbull at 7:22 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I miss crossover songs.
posted by Aquaman at 7:25 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brilliant post. Al Green's cover of I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is particularly sublime, but I'm loving everything herein. Thanks!
posted by kryptondog at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2012


Aaron Neville -"The Grand Tour"
posted by spitbull at 7:30 AM on September 30, 2012


Solomon Burke's Nashville deserves a mention in this post.
posted by Killick at 7:32 AM on September 30, 2012


Great post. I wonder if there are any country singers doing R&B covers?

Leon Russell isn't really straight country but I'll throw this out there: Leon Russell's A Song for You and Donny Hathaway's A Song For You.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:34 AM on September 30, 2012


Fabulous Sunday morning post. Let me add to it with a number one single for Ray Charles (also from his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music album), Don Gibson's I Can't Stop Loving You
posted by evilcolonel at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2012


Rythym Country and Blues is an album of duets. Even is the song Patches is a little corny, George Jones and BB King are a great pairing.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:44 AM on September 30, 2012


I feel like "I Will Always Love You" deserves an honorable mention here.

Dolly's and Whitney's wonderful versions were linked above, but I want to add John Doe as well.
posted by Guy Smiley at 7:45 AM on September 30, 2012


Great post. I wonder if there are any country singers doing R&B covers?


Happens all the time and goes way back. Good 1990s album called "Black, White, and Countey" has some fantastic duets, including a hellaciously good Natalie Cole/Reba McEntire version of
"Since I Fell for You" that might be the best ever recording of that song and is a master class in the relationship between country and r&b singing via gospel. It is holy fuck that good but I can't find it on YouTube.

Also check out the CMA boxed set from around 1994 called From Where I Stand, the best single compilation of black country music, although it hardly scratches the surface.

Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, George Jones, and so many others were importing R&B vocals into country big time in the 70s. But it was always already there. Country is just another offshoot of blues.
posted by spitbull at 7:46 AM on September 30, 2012


Sorry, I meant Rhythm Blues and Country, and there is nothing novelty about the Reba/Natalie duet, although there is some goofy assed shit on that record.
posted by spitbull at 7:47 AM on September 30, 2012


Blues and Appalachian Mountain Music have always been intertwined. There's as much irish folk song structure in the blues as there is african blue notes in country.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:49 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


So saying that one came from the other is specious in my opinion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:49 AM on September 30, 2012


Ray Charles 4 country records and assorted singles are also available as a boxed set from Rhino, which I think is a must own for any serious collection of American music.
posted by spitbull at 7:50 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is no such thing as "always." in music history. My own view is that we have increasingly seen country as more in the grand tradition of black music than a seamless blend of "Anglo Celtic" and black traditions, although quote correct about their long intertwining. Country is now a melange of global elements anyway. The signature sound of the pedal steel, for example, is provably and demonstrably of direct Hawaiian origin.
posted by spitbull at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2012


Tennessee Waltz by Otis Redding. Also: Sam Cooke.
posted by bonefish at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2012


Also, who said one "came from the other?"

Also, by we I mean my fellow scholars of American music history.
posted by spitbull at 7:54 AM on September 30, 2012


Wasn't the sharp and forbidding dividing line between “black” and “white” pop music a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back to the Black Nationalist sentiment arising from the US Civil Rights movement after the assassination of Martin Luther King and/or the rise/fall of the Black Panthers? My impression was that black and white musicians were borrowing from each other all along until it became an identity-political issue.
posted by acb at 7:57 AM on September 30, 2012


Ray Charles - Wichita Lineman, which I found last night after going on an hour-long bender of watching covers of Wichita Lineman.
posted by iwhitney at 7:59 AM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite soul songs is by a country artist: Jim Ford's I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me. There were a bunch of white country singers in the late 60s and early 70s who could get their soul on. Dusty obviously, and Bobbie Gentry, and Bille Joe Royal and plenty more.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:00 AM on September 30, 2012


I picked up a cassette of The Supremes Sing Country, Western and Pop a few years ago, for 50 cents at Half Price Books. Pretty great, and it too has a cover of Funny How Time Slips Away.
posted by Rykey at 8:00 AM on September 30, 2012


I actually switched to my laptop from my iPad so I could clarify the point. Of course it is not a binary distinction between "black tradition" and "Anglo-Celtic" tradition (and in both cases the glosses refer to hundreds of genres and styles and local idioms spread across about 300 years of documented musical history, see Radano's *Lying Up a Nation* for the context).

But it is undeniable that the blues tradition as it coalesced around the dawn of commercial recording provides the lion's share of the musical language of almost *all* contemporary popular recorded music to this day. Jimmie Rodgers was far more musically akin to Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" (a massive hit from several years before Rodgers ever saw a microphone, and produced by the man who "discovered" Rodgers, Ralph Peer) than he was to Fiddlin' John Carson, and even the Carter Family were developing a rhythmic language rooted in black music by the time of the Bristol Sessions. The rest of the century is the slow desegregation of musical style, from separate "race" and "hillbilly" catalogs in the 1920s to banning drums on the Opry in the 1930s to the rise of rock and Elvis Presley record burnings to Jay-Z. Contemporary commercial country music owes, perhaps, some aspects of vocal technique and song structure directly to the Anglo-Celtic and white gospel traditions (in their already hybridized forms of the late 19th century). But that is about it. Much more lip service is paid to the Anglo-Celtic "roots" of country than is actually audible in its sounds as a contemporary genre.

My generation of American music scholars has mostly been concerned to redress that, both by showing the strong history of black country music (in the US and globally, for example country is a primary musical genre in the Anglophone Caribbean, Aboriginal Australia, Native America, and although fading, Southern Africa) and by interrogating the racial categories of musical "blackness" and "whiteness" as ways of *hearing* music rooted in histories of segregation and resistance, not as abstract qualities of musical style.

Geoff Mann wrote a great essay called "Why Does Country Music Sound White?" a few years ago. I recommend it heartily. You can download it right here as a PDF.
posted by spitbull at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I blame corporate radio and (later) MTV for drawing lines and erecting fences that made listening to these performances almost impossible. Growing up in the 60s (NYC area) I know you could listen to a great variety of artists and styles without changing stations. Then sometime in the early 70s, radio started stratifying, and all of sudden you were listening to pop, or soul, or whatever. I'm sure it made sense for those selling commercial time, but it deprived us listeners of a lot of great music. It's taken the Internet to bring it all back where it belongs.
posted by tommasz at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2012


Oops... that first link should go here (mods, fix if you like--thanks).

Wasn't the sharp and forbidding dividing line between “black” and “white” pop music a fairly recent phenomenon dating back to the Black Nationalist sentiment arising from the US Civil Rights movement after the assassination of Martin Luther King and/or the rise/fall of the Black Panthers?

I'd say that's around the time music stopped being so segregated, not the other way around. White people were terrified of their kids listening to black popular music from the beginning.
posted by Rykey at 8:08 AM on September 30, 2012


iwhitney, that was sublime. Here's the Dells' version, which also incorporates By the Time I Get to Phoenix
posted by evilcolonel at 8:10 AM on September 30, 2012


Wasn't the sharp and forbidding dividing line between “black” and “white” pop music a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back to the Black Nationalist sentiment arising from the US Civil Rights movement after the assassination of Martin Luther King and/or the rise/fall of the Black Panthers? My impression was that black and white musicians were borrowing from each other all along until it became an identity-political issue.

Among musicians there has never really been such a line. Among record companies, there has never NOT been such a line. Record companies had "race" records and "white" records, without subterfuge up until the 50s at least and then simply under the table. It didn't start with 60s black nationalism, that just gave racists another excuse to segregate black music more openly, while probably keeping some nervous white people away from live shows. It's not like consumers stopped buying James Brown or musicians stopped borrowing new ideas from each-other.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:10 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This post has me listening now to the Trojan Country Reggae albums (reggae artists covering country songs, not the other way around...)

Toots and the Maytals - Take Me Home, Country Roads
Ken Parker - Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:10 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first major institutionalization of the "sharp dividing line" in American music was the creation of separate "Race" and "Hillbilly" catalogs by the record companies of the 1920s, especially RCA Victor, reflecting the fact that their markets were severely segregated of course, but also a fear of cultural mscengenation. From there we get separate "charts" starting in the 1940s, and separate music industry infrastructures to go with them from the teens onward (and rooted in pre-recording segreagated institutions in any case). The fact that you have euphemestic names like "Urban Contemporary" now goes all the way back to that stuff.
posted by spitbull at 8:10 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't see this one coming... Kool & the Gang's (!) version of Witchita Lineman. It's an instrumental, with the melody carried by trumpet.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:11 AM on September 30, 2012


Slightly off topic, as there's no R&B, but Landslide started as a (sort of) Pop song by The Eagles, then had a very successful Country cover by the Dixie Chicks, and then blew my mind the other day when it popped up on the radio in an Alternative version by Smashing Pumpkins, of all bands.
posted by maryr at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2012


OK, that Kool and the Gang is new to me. Holy shit, that's way the hell out there.
posted by spitbull at 8:13 AM on September 30, 2012


Spitbull, how do modern scholars posit blues came into being though? It was my understanding that it itself was a melange of afro-cuban slave traditions with traditional Christian hymns [via gospel] and Appalachian shape singing / Celtic folk songs leaking into the lowlands. It's not like blues musicians wouldn't have heard that stuff, so why wouldn't they have been influenced by it? And how else can we explain something like "In the Pines"?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:18 AM on September 30, 2012


Potomac, you are quite right. Blues is also a 10th century abstraction that presumes racial essence is somehow expressed in culture, ego racist at root.
posted by spitbull at 8:38 AM on September 30, 2012


Little Richard & Tanya Tucker Somethin' Else (from previously noted Rhythm Country and Blues.)
posted by bukvich at 8:38 AM on September 30, 2012


Among musicians there has never really been such a line.

Wasn't there some resentment (from an increasingly politicised Black America, if not necessarily from professional musicians, who tend to be more laissez-faire about influences) of white musicians doing more recent black genres, such as funk and soul, from the 70s onward? I know that it took a long time for it to be accepted that white people had any business rapping. (There were white people cutting rap records early on—Blondie and Captain Sensible, for example—but that was not considered to be any more credible than 10CC's novelty reggae hit Dreadlock Holiday.)
posted by acb at 8:39 AM on September 30, 2012


Bobby Womack: B.W. goes C. and W. A whole country album in 1976 with hats, horses, pedal steel n'all.
posted by Dr.Pill at 8:40 AM on September 30, 2012


it took a long time for it to be accepted that white people had any business rapping.

They had to FIGHT!
For their RIGHT!
To PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARTAY!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:42 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


ps will reiterate my recommendation of Ronald Radano's *Lying Up a Nation,* the current state of the art in how scholars think about the questions of race in American music.
posted by spitbull at 8:45 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Millie Jackson, perhaps best known for (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right, released Just a Lil' Bit Country in 1981. Tracks include "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," and Rose Colored Glasses.
posted by catlet at 8:46 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It never ceases to make me chuckle when I hear people describe Chuck Berry songs as "black music." Dude played straight-up hillbilly music.

Slightly off topic, as there's no R&B, but Landslide started as a (sort of) Pop song by The Eagles

Fleetwood Mac are not The Eagles.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:48 AM on September 30, 2012


From the wonderful Kent records...
Behind Closed Doors - Where Country Meets Soul
posted by niceness at 8:50 AM on September 30, 2012


It never ceases to make me chuckle when I hear people describe Chuck Berry songs as "black music." Dude played straight-up hillbilly music.

Hmm... that's just a little too trolly to respond to, IMO.

But on the subject of the man, my favorite Chuck Berry tune is one in which he affected a sort of ersatz Carribbean lingo. Great stuff: Havana Moon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:56 AM on September 30, 2012


I have heard that "most of the classic soul records everyone knows had a bunch of country players in the bands.", including "When a Man Loves a Woman.
posted by kenko at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2012


Well, of course they didn't shy away from country back then. That's just because all music was exactly the same in the past - a big, bland mixture of sameness, with no diversity at all, as everybody knows.
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 AM on September 30, 2012


I'll just come out and say it: that first link in this FPP, Al Green's Soul Train appearance, covering For the Good Times, just absolutely blew me away when I heard it for the first time ever, about 45 minutes ago. Good lordy mercy, friends, they just don't make 'em like Al Green anymore.


I realize the original of How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? wasn't c+w, but it sure could've been with a little grit and twang applied. Anyway, no discussion of the gobsmacking genius of the (sometimes) reverend Mr. Green is complete without his take on it ...
posted by philip-random at 9:14 AM on September 30, 2012


Here's Ray Charles singing "Ring of Fire" on the Johnny Cash Show. Cash's introduction ought to silence any doubters that country and soul were so intertwined.

More recently, Mavis Staples covered Johnny Paycheck. Paycheck, for his part, did a version of the Jerry Butler/Curtis Mayfield song "He Will Break Your Heart."

I have a 45 of Merlene Webber's "Stand By Your Man." The b-side is the dub instrumental version, which is a pretty odd peice of blending genres right there.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, previously on Metafilter, a discussion of ethnomusicologist Christopher Waterman's paper "Race/Music: Corrine Corrina, Bo Chatmon, and the Excluded Middle." (a y2karl[TM] post).



As I recall, and paraphrasing out of laziness, Waterman says something like "American music isn't black or white (or "American" in any narrow sense) -- it's light brown." *

The point for most enligtened critics and historians, I think, is not to hear music as inherently having a "race" that is encoded directly in sound, but instead to understand how sounds came to be encoded with historically both durable and changing "racial" ideologies of difference.


* Which in America, under the one-drop rule, makes it socially "black" for most of the 20th century, and arguably up to today.

posted by spitbull at 9:18 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do an exercise when I teach the history of American popular musics (which I do pretty regularly) where I play musically savvy students a selection of both black and white musicians (string bands, fiddlers, etc.) from rural communities around the south from the 1920s and 30s, both folk and commercial, and have them try to guess the "race" of the musicians. Without fail they have no clue.
posted by spitbull at 9:20 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Calling Chuck Berry hillbilly music isn't trolly if you ask me, it's kinda accurate if by Hillbilly you mean the utterly modern urban jungle sound called Rockabilly, which of course was very very "black". Chuck is rock and roll of the purest form and as such defies any other genre label.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2012


My afternoon totally derailed, I just ran into this cool journal article from 1983, Black Music as an Art Form By Olly Wilson.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2012


Also try the Ray Charles and Willie Nelson duet of "Seven Spanish Angels".
posted by easily confused at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mark Wills released a cover of Brian McKnight's Back At One that even a die-hard Country fan such as I recognized as sacrilege, then threw a huge shovel-load of dirt on his career with a bland cover of Brandy's already-not-that-good Almost Doesn't Count.

What makes the case of Wills interesting, and relevant in this discussion, is that one of his earlier singles went the other way: I Do (Cherish You) was covered by 98 Degrees.

R&B struck twice with country artist John Michael Montgomery, whose singles I Swear and I Can Love You Like That were both covered by Boyz II Men-wannabies All-4-One.

Kevin Sharp came out of left field in 1996 with
a well-adapted cover of Tony Rich Project's Nobody Knows, and an original song, She's Sure Taking It Well, that almost sounded like it might be another R&B cover... then went immediately back into left field with an utterly disastrous second album.
posted by The Confessor at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2012


Chuck Berry is the Rosetta Stone of American music. Call him anything and it fits.
posted by spitbull at 9:26 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Genres of music are mostly defined by specifics in the performances; much of what makes up a song is not genre specific. Many musicians seem to see this more easily than non musicians, and often have much broader tastes than their fans, and want to cover those songs they love.

Here’s a couple of reggae songs that always sound like "country" songs to me;

Book of Rules

Country Boy

I have a dream that one day people will quit acting like Country music is some weird outlying thing, you have to be for or against it, and that says something about you personally.
posted by bongo_x at 9:34 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, it's absolute bullshit to say "the musical lines" weren't "so clearly drawn" back then. I suspect anybody who would say otherwise doesn't know much about music history.

To claim that it isn't remarkable for a soul singer to cover country music, or for a country musician to cover soul music, is to claim there's nothing visionary or unique about those things. And that diminishes the thought and intelligence of the singers who did.
posted by koeselitz at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm... that's just a little too trolly to respond to, IMO.

Berry wrote, "Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?' After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it."


Facts are so trolly.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on September 30, 2012


I consider Maybelline the definitive rock and roll song Spitbull. To me it's a genre born of theft, ambiguity and authentic emotion masquerading in empty gestures and cosmetics.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:41 AM on September 30, 2012


Chuck Berry did play hillbilly music. This isn't trolling. "Maybellene" was an adaptation of a familiar country tune and managed to be a decent crossover hit.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2012


Ray Charles was asked how a blues singer (such as himself) could perform country and western music, and he said: There's only two kinds of music, good and bad.
posted by mule98J at 9:47 AM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


To claim that it isn't remarkable for a soul singer to cover country music, or for a country musician to cover soul music, is to claim there's nothing visionary or unique about those things

There isn't much unique or visionary about it, though. There was a lot of cross-fertiilization. See above re: session musicians in particular.
posted by kenko at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, I probably just have a thing against stunt posts. Carry on.
posted by koeselitz at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2012


The existence of the line is what tempts people to cross it. Ironic, isn't it, that such great music came out of such awful social conditions? And then you realize the greatness was often rooted in the authenticity of the struggle against those conditions, or in fantasizing a better order (in the future or the nostalgic past) and you wonder if bad times don't produce better music and perhaps you should feel guilty for loving the sounds of a people's pain. So you reinvigorate it with a heroic mythology, you know?

You can pry my Aretha and Otis Redding records out of my cold, dead, white hands.
posted by spitbull at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stoney Edwards, the great Black/Seminole (Oklahoma) country singer I referenced above, reorded the Dallas Frazier song "Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul" and had a major hit with it in 1973. He went to LA where Merle Haggard oversaw the development of his career at Capitol records. Sometime in the early 70s, right before Lefty finished drinking himself to death, Stoney was introduced to Lefty as "the guy who wrote that song about you." (Mind you, being compared to Hank Williams in a hit song is no small deal, and Lefty's true contribution was not widely acknowledged until well after his death -- he basically invented the melistmatic style of modern honky tonk singing.) Lefty refused to meet with Stoney and called him "nigger" with him standing right there (it's a well known story and appears in several of Stoney's interviews, but he told it to me himself in 1993 so I am fairly sure it's true). Hurt Stoney's feelings real bad, as he worshipped Lefty's singing.
posted by spitbull at 10:05 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And it must have been "the guy who put out that song about you," I'd have to check my notes, but obviously Dallas Frazier wrote the song.)
posted by spitbull at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2012


"You look country".
posted by wobh at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2012


Cracking post!

From the opposite direction, so to speak, the two volume Country Got Soul comp on Casual is great fun.

I didn't see this one coming... Kool & the Gang's (!) version of Witchita Lineman . It's an instrumental, with the melody carried by trumpet.

Wowsers.

There were a bunch of white country singers in the late 60s and early 70s who could get their soul on. Dusty obviously, and Bobbie Gentry, and Bille Joe Royal and plenty more.

Dusty was a soul singer who could get her country on, surely? (I know you're right chronologically speaking, but still...)
posted by jack_mo at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


James Carr or the Burritos?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:26 AM on September 30, 2012


Are Jim Webb songs "country"? Surely Wichita Lineman was a pop hit and written as such. Glen Campbell was initially a pop phenom and only went country later.
posted by bonefish at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isaac Hayes, By The Time I Get To Phoenix. If you've got the time, it's worth every second of the 18 minutes and 40 seconds.
posted by ashbury at 11:55 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ray Charles' modern sounds in country and western music volumes 1 and 2 were my most favorite albums when I was a young man. My mother had both those albums on vinyl and I would lay and listen to them over and over again. It seems obvious to me that the lamenting that exists in both country and blues music strikes a chord in anyone's broken heart.
posted by sciencejock at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2012


Like many things in life, awesome and interesting things result when two or more good things are mixed. Doesn't always work, but it's aways worth a try! And yeah, I've met precious few musicians who didn't to a really eclectic mix of music...you just never know what's going to hook you.
posted by smirkette at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2012


Wasn't there some resentment (from an increasingly politicised Black America, if not necessarily from professional musicians, who tend to be more laissez-faire about influences) of white musicians doing more recent black genres, such as funk and soul, from the 70s onward?

Well, it was born out of a very real anger at white-owned record labels buying the rights to black songwriters works, re-recording them with white singers and making bank. The 70's was the first time people started to call foul on that. Which was of course, tied up in the American Black Pride movement.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2012


obligatory Jesse Jackson Primal Scream moment ...

"We know that music is just music."
posted by philip-random at 1:31 PM on September 30, 2012


Okay, link seems bunged ... It's at around the 25:20 point
posted by philip-random at 1:32 PM on September 30, 2012


Superb post and thread, yay. Every Sunday should have Al Green in it.

I love Ray Charles' country stuff. I don't think this was posted: Love in Three Quarter Time

Ideefixe, Rhythm Country and Blues is one of my all-time favorite cds. I posted quite a few
video clips from it in another excellent prior flapjax post - everyone who enjoyed this thread should go there, too!
posted by madamjujujive at 1:45 PM on September 30, 2012


And we can't forget Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:28 PM on September 30, 2012


Thanks for this post-gave me some very happy listening time.
posted by purenitrous at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2012


Great post. I have of bunch of these, but look forward to digging through the comment links for more!
Pointer Sisters - Fairytale
James Brown - Your Cheatin Heart
Candi Staton - Stand By Your Man
The Staple Singers - For What It's Worth
Bettye Lavette - Heart of Gold
posted by p3t3 at 2:49 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ideefixe, Rhythm Country and Blues is one of my all-time favorite cds. I posted quite a few
video clips from it in another excellent prior flapjax post - everyone who enjoyed this thread should go there, too!


I came here to mention the B.B. King and George Jones cover of "Patches" off that CD, but it's in your comment so I'll just say listen to it. "Patches" is melodramatic and mawkish, sure, but it's like they made George Jones in a lab to make maudlin songs great and he works his magic on "Patches."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:13 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a soft spot for "Patches", for sure. (haven't heard the George Jones/BB King cover, will listen). And here's the reason why: it REALLY moved me as a kid. I think it takes a pretty strong song, with a clear and powerful narrative, to really get through to a 12 year old. I suppose the melodramatic quality helped, in that regard.

Anyway, it was a hit during the summer of 1970 when I was visiting my cousins in South Carolina. It came on the radio, as usual, and after listening, I said to one of my cousins, "his life was wasted!" (meaning the singer, who had to quit school and work the fields for his family to eat). I remember one of my cousins (a few years older than me) saying "No it wasn't! He took care of his family". I grew up a little that day, thanks to my cousin and a "mawkish" song.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Facts are so trolly.

It's a big discussion, what "black music" is and, supposedly, isn't. But it wasn't your characterizing of Berry's music as "hillbilly" (I'm not ignorant about music history, and I do know what you meant when you said that) that bothered me. It was your implying that his country-ish early rock'n'roll stylings were not "black" music. That you "chuckle" when you hear people refer to his music as "black music". Maybe rather than chuckling (oh, don't you know so much more than everyone else!) you should give a little more thought to your ready definitions of what's "black" and what's not.

But, yeah, it's a big discussion.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 PM on September 30, 2012


Maybe rather than chuckling (oh, don't you know so much more than everyone else!) you should give a little more thought to your ready definitions of what's "black" and what's not.

Then I suppose you'll be rethinking this post? 'Cause, like, OMG you guys did you know black people played white people music??? seems to be the whole throughline. But you won;t, because it's completely fine.

I'm just not seeing what you're getting so het up about. All I did was give another example of a popular black musician who played country songs. That makes me a troll?

And now I'm racist and arrogant, too? Whatever, dude.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:57 PM on September 30, 2012


Here’s a couple of reggae songs that always sound like "country" songs to me;

You've heard Toots & the Maytals sing "Take Me Home Country Roads", right?
posted by Jahaza at 5:39 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


You've heard Toots & the Maytals sing "Take Me Home Country Roads", right?

Yes, I have ;-)
posted by Guy Smiley at 7:31 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, Sys Rq. Hatchet buried, and all that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 PM on September 30, 2012


me: “Also, it's absolute bullshit to say ‘the musical lines’ weren't ‘so clearly drawn’ back then. I suspect anybody who would say otherwise doesn't know much about music history.”

This was a bitter and pointless and insulting little comment, and I wish I hadn't made it. This is a post full of good music, and frankly I think when everything comes down we can all agree on that. And we probably agree on much more than that; that'd be more obvious if I didn't let my own bullshit get in the way.

Sorry, flapjax. This is one awesome post out of hundreds of awesome posts you've made here, and I've learned a lot from what you have to say. You deserve better than sneering nonsense.

Thank you for this post, by the way.
posted by koeselitz at 10:28 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Amazing post. I literally burst into tears at my desk at the first verse of Ray singing "You don't know me." I have no idea what the hell hidden, repressed nerve that it had to hit to get that response, but, wow, it sure hit it. So thanks for that, I guess.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:52 AM on October 1, 2012


So thanks for that, I guess.

You're welcome, I guess.

It's a gorgeous, sad and very powerful song. And it's good to know that music and words can still evoke such responses. This restores faith in both music and humanity.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:00 AM on October 1, 2012


Just for the record, as the link was long dead in the post to which spitbull linked above, here is some, if not all of, Christopher Waterman's Race/Music: Corrine Corrina, Bo Chatmon, and the Excluded Middle.

Slightly offtopic, being that neither are country songs, but two of my favorite Al Green covers are How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and To Sir With Love.

Neither were my favorites in the original -- and that goes for For the Good Times, too, -- but, man, the Rev. Green could redeem just about any song....
posted by y2karl at 10:31 PM on October 3, 2012


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