Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

This topic used to aggravate me, but now I just think, eh.

My quarrel isn't so much with the selections, as it is with the omissions (more on that later).

But let's talk about the 2011 inductees.

MODERN ERA ~ Reba McEntire

When Reba first arrived on the scene, I was a big fan. She was pretty country (okay, really country), especially with that twang. I remember taking my mom to see her when she was still performing at rodeos (Reba; not my mom, although that does paint a funny picture).

I notice that Reba's YouTube channel doesn't include this single. Too country, most likely. But it's the one that first caught my attention. 1980:

And I like this one a lot (1984):

This one is probably my favorite (1986):

Reba's vocal stylings hadn't yet become a caricature (you know, how she turns a two-syllable word into sixteen syllables). She practiced restraint here.

I even sort of liked this one (although I will admit, I think I liked the video more than the actual recording). Also 1986:

Then something happened. Reba started recording songs like "Fancy" (which wasn't even a good song when Bobby Gentry did it) and, oh my God, "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia" (Vicki Lawrence?) And it just continued to go downhill.

Remember this? This video was made as a joke; at least I hope so. Recorded as a duet with Linda Davis (mom, by the way, to that girl from Lady Antebellum):

Okay, I really, really like this song, but I guess Reba wasn't interested in filming a video for it. Too country, again.

Let's not forget that when we are chronicling the downfall of country music as we know it, we should cut Garth Brooks a little slack, and heavens, please, cut Shania some slack.

No, if we want to trace the downfall of country music, let's talk about Reba's stage show and her many costume changes and theatrics. I knew someone who attended one of these "concerts" once, and she said it was just the ABSOLUTE BEST EVER! Ick. Call me old school, but I like a live show where performers just perform their songs. Oh, maybe a little pyrotechnics now and then, if it's the Rolling Stones, but I don't really care how many "cute outfits" Reba has. Call me cuckoo.

So, there's a bit of the good and a bit of the bad with Reba. Pre-1989, I'm fully on board with Reba's induction. You know, when she was country.

VETERAN'S ERA ~ Jean Shepard

Let's just say at the outset that if you are going to have a "veteran's era", can we PLEASE induct more than one artist? Time is running out. I'm serious about this. It's completely unfair that so many deserving artists are passed over, simply because of some arbitrary rule about ONE inductee per category. Let's have a mass induction, shall we? Willie said it a long time ago, and I guess if they won't listen to Willie, they're not going to listen to me. But I'll keep saying it.

But I digress.

I believe I saw Jean Shepard in concert once. One of those package shows, way back when. She comes across as a very classy lady, and let me say, I'm GLAD that she is being inducted.

Jean didn't have an abundance of hit songs, but she was (and is) a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry, and she paved the way for pretty much every other "girl singer", except Kitty Wells, of course.

Since Ferlin Husky passed away today, I think it's only fitting that I include the video of Jean's only number one song, a duet with Ferlin, called "Dear John Letter", originally recorded in 1953! (sorry for the poor sound quality ~ it's the only embeddable video I could find):

I also like this one (1969):

SONGWRITER (rotating category) ~ Bobby Braddock

What Bobby Braddock knows how to do is write hit songs. Mostly employing the "KISS" method (yay!), Bobby has had hit songs in every decade, from the '60's up to today.

One may listen to some of these songs and think, gee, they're dated. Well, yea! But they weren't dated when they were hits. Bobby adapted to the times for which he was writing. Styles change; tastes change. The mark of a master songwriter is to be flexible enough to write hits for any era. Well, he did it!

Where shall we start? How about with Bobby's first number one hit, in 1968 (I like to include a video from the time the song was popular, so thanks, Roy and Dale, for the introduction:

Jerry Lee always makes me happy:

Sorry again for the poor video quality, but I wanted to include this one by Tracy Lawrence (I miss Tracy Lawrence!):

2009 (most played song on radio for 2009!):

Okay, I didn't forget.

(Note to video posters - if you insist on inserting ads before the video, I'm not going to watch; same for your little personal logos that obscure the singer. Sorry for the tangent, but this is a "general crankiness blog, too, as you know.)

Well, Bobby Braddock can cry this song all the way to the bank, as everyone knows. Some say this is the best country song ever. I don't say that. I will say, however, that this is diabolically addicting to many.

I could deconstruct the diabolical-ness of the song, but that would just bore everyone, and people just want to get to the video. If you're a songwriting geek, however, note how Bobby pushed all the right buttons with this song. Kudos as well to the producer of the single, Billy Sherrill (who is a story unto himself!), for the soaring violins on the last chorus. No disrespect to George Jones, but it was the violins that did it.

My dad thought this was one of the best songs EVER, and I never disrespect my dad, so I will just stay silent and present the video here:

So, thanks, HOF, for the randomness of the "rotating category", which allowed a songwriter to be inducted this year. Look, singers, you ain't nowhere without the songwriters. Unless someone wants to download an mp3 of you humming (although that would have a melody, and thus would be considered a "song").

As I said at the start of this post, I have little quarrel with the selections, and I have already detailed my one and only reservation.

That said, c'mon, you guys! I'm not going to get into the whole Bobby Bare thing again; you can read it here. And I'm not going to mention Ronnie Milsap today.

I'm just really, really disappointed that you are passing over a whole bunch of deserving artists.

My latest dissertation is this: Ask any true country music fan who has any historical knowledge and/or taste, and they will name this guy almost every time, if only for just this one song (ask Alan Jackson, who will most likely be inducted before Gene Watson ever is):

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