Top 10 70’s Era Country Songs

For most of us growing up, the music that we listened to when we were young was the music our parents listened to. In my household that meant that I listened to a smattering of gospel music (Doug Oldham was a big player), Elvis (my mom loved Elvis and still had a lot of old albums) and County and Western music. Both my parents grew up on farms so both grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and stuff like that. My dad had a few Hank Williams and Bob Wills records but most of the music I listened to growing up was on Country radio stations. I grew up in the 70’s (I was born in ’71) and there was a lot of great Country music around at that time. I like the old stuff too, Hank Williams, Scruggs and Flatt and all those guys. I like some of the newer Country music but most of it is just pop songs sung with a twang. But the Country from the 70’s is what I really like the best. The following songs are my favorites from then. They’re in no particular order except for the number 1 song, which I think is probably the best Country song ever written and recorded. So without further ado…

10. “The Most Beautiful Girl”, Charlie Rich – It’s hard to decide between this one and “Behind Closed Doors” for me, but I think that Beautiful Girl edges Closed Doors out. It could probably be argued that Closed Doors has more of a Country sound to it, but I just love the feel of this song. It’s got that atmospheric reverb that makes it sound like it was sung in a cave somewhere. Very sad. Very cool.

9. “Every Which Way but Loose”, Eddie Rabbitt – I am a big Eddie Rabbitt fan and really any of his hits could have been included on this list. But there’s something about this song that puts it above the others. It has the classic country theme of the guy who doesn’t want to be tied down, but can’t bring himself to leave. The melody is exceptional and it has a killer pedal steel part which, for me, always turns a good Country song into a great Country song. This song is the title track from the movie of the same name which was…not quite as good buddy.

8. “Coward of the County”, Kenny Rogers – Once again, there are several Kenny Rogers songs that could make this list. A lot of people would probably have listed “The Gambler” instead of this one. But I always liked this song better. I love a good “story” song. Plus this one has the whole underdog theme which, to me, is always appealing. It’s also probably the only Country song in history that mentions a gang rape. I’m not saying that’s a plus for the song but still, it makes it unique.

7. “Okie from Muskogee”, Merle Haggard – You would be hard pressed to find a Country music artist whose life is more like a Country song than Merle Haggard’s. Merle spent most of his youth in juvenile detention centers and then served a 10 year sentence in San Quentin for burglary. While there, he saw Johnny Cash several times and was inspired to become a performer. I loved this song growing up. My dad was from Oklahoma and all of my family subscribed to the traditional values and patriotic spirit glorified in this song. I love the contempt in Haggard’s voice as he delivers the line:

“We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy,
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.”

Greatness!

6. “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”, Waylon Jennings – One of the great ones. This song about getting back to the simple life has a great laid back feel to it. I love the guitar part in it because of its simplicity. It very much sets the mood of the song. Jennings has a very distinct guitar (and voice for that matter) sound and style and it is part of what make his songs sound so cool. Plus this song has the added bonus of Willie Nelson joining in towards the end.

5. “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends”, Ronnie Milsap – Ronnie Milsap is probably my favorite country singer from this era. I had several of his albums when I was a kid. In fact, the first album I ever bought with my own money was It Was Almost Like a Song. There are so many songs I could have gone with from him, but I chose this one because most great country songs are sad ballads and this one definitely fits that bill. Milsap has a great range and often sings in a soaring style similar to Roy Orbison. When he hits the high notes, you know you’re in the presence of greatness.

4. “Family Tradition”, Hank Williams Jr. – “I have loved some ladies, and I have loved Jim Beam. And they both tried to kill me, in 1973.” Hank Williams Jr, Bocephus, has one of the greatest Country music pedigrees and lived as full throttle as the Rolling Stones in their heyday. That combination produces great music. This song is an ode to his hard drinkin’, hard livin’ daddy and proves that the apple indeed rarely falls far from the tree.

3. “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good”, Don Williams – It seems like I’ve said this a lot, but I could have gone with any number of Don Williams songs. I went with this one mainly because of the great mandolin riff in it. But also because I love the laid back, petitioning tone of the lyrics. There’s something intangible in Williams’ voice that makes it great. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you hear it when he sings. Don Williams is one of the underrated greats of Country music.

2. “Coat of Many Colors”, Dolly Parton – Man! This song is a tear-jerker! Parton’s song is about a dirt-poor young girl (I think the song is semi-autobiographical) who is so proud of the coat her mama makes her out of old scraps of cloth, likening it to Joseph’s coat of many colors. Then she goes to school and gets made fun of by all the other kids. Parton is famous for the expressiveness of her voice and you can hear the raw emotion on this one

1. “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, George Jones – A song about a man whose unrequited love didn’t die until he did, this is possibly the saddest song ever written. To paraphrase James Taylor, this song is so sad it makes your dog weep and your roof leak. I have a friend who said that this song made him want to kill himself – in a good way. It could be argued that George Jones is the greatest Country music singer ever. This is his greatest song.

Thank You

“Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!”
General George S. Patton – (addressing to his troops before Operation Overlord) – 5th June 1944

Usually articles and remembrances around Veteran’s Day begin with a reverential quote about sacrifice and/or honor but I thought I would give you something irreverent from one of my favorite generals, George S, Patton.

When I was a kid, one of the things I liked best was going to the family reunions on my dad’s side of the family. These usually occurred in the panhandle of Oklahoma where there is nothing but horizon for miles and miles. There were lots of things I liked about these get-togethers; the pot-luck meals, the baseball games we would organize (usually using dried cow patties for bases), the croquet games, and watching the sun go down at the end of the evening while enjoying home made ice cream that tasted all that much better because every kid had to take his turn turning the crank. But the thing I liked best about family reunions was listening to the war stories told by my dad and great uncles. My father served in the army in Vietnam and I had several great uncles who served in WWII. Inevitably, they would all end up in a group and start talking. They usually started off with funny ones but after a while things would always take a serious tone. By the time I was 11 or 12, I had heard most of them a hundred times but I never got tired of listening. There was always a swelling of pride and patriotism in my chest as I listened to the men in my family talk about serving their country.

I just wanted to write a few lines and say thank you to all of you veterans out there. Thank you for the sacrifices that you have made. Thank you for putting your country before your self and family. But mostly thank you for my freedom. John Adams once said “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” It is because of you, and the men and women like you throughout our nation’s history, that my children live in a nation with a bright future as citizens free to choose the course of their own lives.

Thank you.

A Father’s Thoughts

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body…we ought always primarily to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.”

I wish that I could keep this in mind always. Sometimes I find myself expecting too much of my children. Expecting that they are more grown up than they are. Both of my girls have very extensive vocabularies for their age and sometimes that tricks me into thinking that they are more mature than they really are. Occasionally, my wife has to gently remind me that everything is new to them. And, just as when they learned to walk, everything is a gradual process; from that first tentative step to eventual mastery. Some things, like walking, they will master quickly. Others may take half a lifetime to master. From September of 2003 (the month and year of my oldest daughter’s birth) I have made it my primary mission in life to be a great father. It’s my job to help my children discover that new universe and to grow up contributing to their world and to grow up to be and do good. Some days I do better than others. Some days I feel like a failure. Some days are wonderful beyond description.

I remember vividly the first time I held my daughters a few minutes after they were born. It is one of those memories that is seared into my mind. I can see every detail as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Before I saw them, I never understood that it was possible to instantly love someone so completely and unconditionally. I hope as my children grow older that I can always keep that image in my mind.

Why I’m Not As Happy

Well, it wasn’t even close. John McCain not only lost all the states he was supposed to, he lost states that GWB won in both 2000 and 2004. I switched the TV to a movie around 21:00; about the time that Fox News called Ohio for Obama. At that point I knew McCain was done since Obama was at 207 electoral votes without California. I was dismayed this morning when I discovered that McCain couldn’t even hold Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, or Colorado. Basically, this was an old-fashioned whupping.

I’ve read several articles (here, here and here) today that essentially say the first thing I was thinking this morning: probably the best thing that Conservatives can hope for is that Obama the president will govern more like his general election rhetoric (center) and not like his voting record (far left). Even though the election didn’t go Conservatives’ way, things aren’t as bad as they may seem today. And it’s a good thing that America has finally elected its first black president. We’ve come a long way from the racial rancor of the 50’s and 60’s to now.

It appears that even though we’ve been told by both sides that this is the “Most Important Election In Our Lifetimes”that turnout was a little less than the 2004 election. So I guess not that many people cared about making history by voting for either the first black president or the first woman vice president. It also appears that we’ll have to wait until next election for the mythic “Youth Vote” to show up en masse. Yes even though Obama galvanized and energized all those youth, it turns out that they still couldn’t put down their bongs and bags of Cheetos long enough to get off their asses and vote (early numbers show 18-29 year-olds constituted about 18% of the total as opposed to 17% in 2004).

A friend of mine and I were talking about what happened and I think it was this: McCain just couldn’t outrun all the times he’s crapped on the Republican party. I think that the base just didn’t turn up to vote for him. He fired up Republicans with the Palin pick but then soured things by botching her roll-out. In the end, I think too many Republicans saw him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and just decided to stay home.

I guess we’ll see how things play out over the next four years. The Democrats didn’t get to the filibuster-proof 60 seats in the senate, so they won’t necessarily be able to ram anything they want through congress.

 My hope is that Obama decides to govern with all Americans in mind. That he moves to the center and doesn’t just rubber stamp everything Pelosi and Reid send his way.

Here’s to “Hope”