Sunday, July 13, 2014

The 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time Part 7: 40-31

     The 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time continues with Part 7: 40-31.  As we push ahead toward the greatest song of all time, we get to experience some of the best that country music has to offer.  I hope as you make this journey, you see one of your favorite songs, rehear an old classic you may have forgotten about, and, most importantly, you learn some of the greatest songs for the first time.  Keep It Country Kids proudly presents The 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time Part 7: 40-31.

40. Sunday Morning Coming Down- Johnny Cash

This song was written by Kris Kristofferson and taken to the top of the charts by Johnny Cash in 1970.  It also won the CMA Award for Song of the Year in 1970.  The song was the first big break of Kris Kristofferson as a songwriter, and also helped put Johnny back on the radio after a short dry spell.  Johnny debuted this song on The Johnny Cash Show and the producers wanted him to change some of the lyrics about the rough morning after of an addict.  Of course, Johnny refused and the full, unedited version became a career song for Johnny and Kris.

39. Wildwood Flower- The Carter Family

"Wildwood Flower" is a variation of a poem written by Maud Irving in the 1860's, with music added by Joseph Philbrick Webster.  The Carter Family recorded their version in 1928.  As one of the earliest country artists, The Carter Family paved the way for many of today's artists.  Mother Maybelle revolutionized the guitar as a lead instrument, and A.P. Carter created some masterful stories through his songs.  Much of what the genre evolved into began with some of their recordings.

38. Lovesick Blues- Hank Williams

Few songs can truly say they changed country music quite like this song.  It was originally a show tune by Cliff Friend and Irving Mills, but in 1949, an up-and-coming hillbilly singer named Hank Williams released a country version of it and the genre was never the same. The song was Hank's first big national hit as it went to number one on the charts and caught the attention of The Grand Ole Opry.  Hank used the momentum from this song to create his short, but stellar, career in country music.  His Opry debut was with this song and it eventually led to a full time membership with the Opry cast.  Hank was a legend of country music, but it all began with this song.

37. Choices- George Jones

This song was written by Billy Yates, Mike Curtis, and Rob Lyons.  George Jones recorded it in 1999.  George hadn't had a big hit on the radio in a while, and while this wasn't a huge hit, it did win him a Grammy for Best Male Country Performance and earn him a spot performing on the CMA and ACM awards.  Of course, as many of you now know, the CMA Awards did not want George to do a full version of the song.  George said it was the whole song or none at all.  The CMA folks wouldn't budge, so George refused to perform.  In one of the classiest and daring moments in country music history, Alan Jackson stopped his song during the live broadcast and sang "Choices" in honor of his friend and hero.  It was one of the most memorable nights in country music history.  Lyrically, this song perfectly describes the hard, honky-tonk lifestyle that George Jones lived.  It is a fitting and touching look back at a life full of pain and triumph.

Alan Jackson's CMA protest

36. A Country Boy Can Survive

"A Country Boy Can Survive" was written by Hank Jr and peaked at number 2 on the country charts in 1982.  The song is considered the signature song of one of country music's favorite sons.  For better or worse, the song is listed as the number one influence of many of today's "laundry list" country songs, which feature endless "countryisms", and comparing of "how country" the artists are.  While countless (literally) have tried, nobody has been able to recapture the angst and deeply rooted honesty of this song.  It's impact on the current landscape combined with its success and longevity earn it a place on this list.

35. Friends In Low Places- Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks makes his first appearance on the countdown with "Friends In Low Places".  The song is widely considered by many to be Garth's biggest hit.  It was written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee.  Garth's version was the lead single of his second album No Fences, and it peaked at number one on the charts and won Single of the Year from both the CMA and the ACM.  The sing-along nature of the song has made it a lasting hit that continues to have popularity and radio play nearly 24 years after its release.  Many songs come and go, but this one will be around forever.

34. Amarillo By Morning- George Strait

Curiously enough, the most well known song by the artist with more number ones than anyone else in country music (or any music, for that matter) history didn't actually hit number one.  Paul Fraser and Terry Stafford wrote this song about life on the Texas rodeo circuit.  George Strait released the song in 1983, but it peaked at number 4 on the charts.  Since then, it has become a staple of country music, and George's most requested and cherished hit.  This song was a big reason that George ruled the 1980's and helped pull country back to its traditional roots.

33. Coat of Many Colors- Dolly Parton

Lost in all the hoopla and glitter that is Dolly Parton is the forgotten fact that she is a fantastic songwriter and storyteller.  She wrote this true story about her poor upbringing in Sevier County, Tennessee.  It hit number 4 on the country charts in 1971.  Dolly cites the song as her favorite she ever wrote, and it perfectly captures the feeling of pride that many poor, rural Americans felt and still feel.  Dolly may be larger than life, but she never forgot where she came from, and this song proves it.

32. The Devil Went Down To Georgia- The Charlie Daniels Band

One of the most well-known songs in any genre, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" was released in 1979 and hit number one on the country charts and number 3 on the pop charts.  It was released to coincide with the movie Urban Cowboy.  The song is one of the greatest story songs ever written, as it tells of the epic fiddle battle between Johnny and the Devil.  The song features some of the greatest fiddle jams you will ever hear as the battle rages on.  This iconic song has crossed over and become more than just a great country song, it is an American standard.

31. Man of Constant Sorrow- The Soggy Bottom Boys

How does a song by a band that technically doesn't exist get this high on the countdown?  By revitalizing a long lost genre to the top of the charts and sparking new interest in country's roots in the 21st century.  The traditional ballad was recorded for the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Dan Tyminski, Harley Allen, and Pat Enright as The Soggy Bottom Boys.  The band name comes from the fictional band that George Clooney's character in the movie is the lead singer of.  The album was full of nothing but traditional bluegrass music by many of the modern greats of the genre.  Fans new and old gobbled up this album and it  flew off the shelves and was certified 8 times platinum.  "Man of Constant Sorrow" won Single of the Year at the 2001 CMA Awards, while the album won Album of The Year.  It also won the Grammy for Album of the Year and Country Collaboration with Vocal for "Man of Constant Sorrow" in 2002.  A major cross-country bluegrass tour, Down From The Mountain, was created from the success of the album, and artists like Ralph Stanley, Allison Krauss and Union Station, and The Whites received critical attention they deserved.  The renewal in interest of bluegrass music was huge for the genre and great for bringing in new fans to bluegrass.  Not bad for a band that isn't technically real.

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