This weeks article is different than most. Next week, we'll get back to featuring a great artist. This week we will mention three, and what they did that really propelled Country at a pivotal time. There were three big songs, released by three great women over about an 18 month span or so that introduced country to millions of new people. They were big country hits, and crossed over and showed many non fans, that country was not some twangy, stereotypical form of music that wasn't worth a listen.
There is no order here, just three songs from three amazing women and where they led us.
Dolly Parton - Here You Come Again
This came out in 1977, fed into 1978, and was a very big song that not only had a great run on the country and pop charts, but really accelerated Dolly into the brightest spotlight in the mainstream. The album was the same name, and changed her career. Yes, this song is very pop sounding, but Dolly had a nice foothold within the format already as this song was wing-spreading for her and the format. In fact, she recorded a ton of albums before this one, in an era when albums came out way faster than today. The followup song, Two Doors Down was a big hit too, and Dolly was soon known by everyone in America. We loved Dolly, this album and this song, it changed everything for her. A couple years later she was a movie star and a singing star. The album is legendary.
Crystal Gayle - Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
Again, 1977 into 1978. The size of this song is hard to explain properly. It was a worldwide hit, and it was one of the ten most played, and performed songs of the 20th century. Grammy winner. The title alone tells you it's country. This is a fantastic example of the perfect song reaching the perfect artist. This song was everywhere, and everyone knew it, and you still know this song. It was a big country and pop hit, and what this song really did was subliminally show people that they liked traditional country. Everything about this song is traditional, even though it is a bit bluesy, from the Floyd Cramer influenced piano style, (Played by the legendary Hargas "Pig" Robbins) the gentle beat, and Gayle's angelic vocal performance. It's easy to listen to, its message is timeless, and it's one of the most important 2:32 in country music history. She instantly became a star as a result of this gigantic song. BTW - Her eyes were already blue as you can clearly see.
Barbara Mandrell - If Lovin' You Is Wrong (I Don't Wanna Be Right)
1978 - This not only was a major hit song on both charts, it made people want to know who was singing it. This song is timeless and delivered by the perfect singer. It was arranged poppy as this had been a hit in 1972 in other formats, but the story of the song is country. Mandrell became an instant star, and soon a pop culture icon. New fans and old really liked her, and this song propelled her to unimaginable heights. She was not stereotypical "country" in her sound or image, and fans loved her and followed her to the country charts where she had a great run. Shortly thereafter she was a TV star, and a performing legend, where she and Dolly were among the first women to headline major concert tours.
Those three songs did us a whole lot of good in that era, as they bled into Urban Cowboy. UC gave rise to many new pop country stars, men and women, and a movement that lasted with varying levels of success until the mid 1980's, when the Neo-traditionalists came to town and changed our direction again. But these three very important songs opened a closed door and equally closed minds. They were disarming, showing many that their stereotypical notions of who were to a degree were incorrect. And they also helped change our direction. These songs really paved the way.
Then in 1980, after the stage had been set, this happened - Reba McEntire - Up To Heaven
When Up To Heaven broke through, it was the first hit song for a young singer named Reba McEntire, as she took the first step towards to becoming the dominant woman of the decade. She then would become as influential as any performer of her era. Her popularity, though different today, is still a part of our pop culture, along with Dolly. These four women inspired a whole new era of country singers and stars and helped make us mainstream.
Thanks for reading, and listening!