Archive for October, 2011

Influential Country Music Stars

October 7, 2011

By Joe Corazzi

In the world of music, no genre contains an appeal as uniquely American as country music. Throughout the history of style, countless performers have contributed to the unique identity that now characterizes country music. A handful of artists have had a particularly large impact on country music, forever changing the landscape of the genre and cementing their status as country music legends. Here is a quick look at some of the most influential country musicians of all time.

Willie Nelson: Easily one of the most recognizable names in country music, Willie Nelson has cultivated a following among country aficionados and non-country fans alike. Born during the height of the Great Depression, Nelson experienced a large measure of success in the early 1960s with albums such as And Then I Wrote. After a brief stint with the Grand Ole Opry, Nelson retired and moved to Austin, Texas, where his music saw a revival in fame, thanks to the popularity of hippie music during the 1970s. In recent decades, Nelson has continued to tour, release albums, and serve as an advocate for causes such as bio-fuels.

Johnny Cash: Perhaps the most iconic country musician ever to pick up a guitar, Johnny Cash became known for his brooding lyrics and deep, intimate vocal stylings. Throughout his career, Cash recorded a large number of signature songs, including “Get Rhythm,” “Man in Black,” “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Ring of Fire.” Through his music, Cash explored a variety of philosophical themes, including Christian morality, internal conflict, and the inevitability of death. During the early years of his career, Cash became known for his somber demeanor and dark performance clothing, earning him the nickname of “The Man in Black.”

Merle Haggard: One of the leading figures of the outlaw country music of the 1970s, Merle Haggard has become one of the most famous country music singers and multi-instrumentalists in the history of the genre. After experiencing early success in the 1960s, Haggard released one of his most famous songs, “Okie From Muskogee,” which expressed support for soldiers fighting in Vietnam and criticized uneducated protestors. In many ways, Merle Haggard was the straight-laced antithesis of Willie Nelson, expressing pride in his Middle America roots and patriotic beliefs.

Hank Williams: One of the earliest country musicians to experience widespread success, Hank Williams recorded no fewer than 35 singles that reached the top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart. With such hits as “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Williams has been covered by many famous artists, including Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Louis Armstrong, and Elvis Costello.

About the Author:

A longtime country music enthusiast, Joe Corazzi co-founded the now-ubiquitous Country Music Television (CMT) in 1983 and penned this intial information for the early marketing efforts of CMT. Mr. Corazzi currently serves as Chairman of the Capital Group based in Beverly Hills , CA.