Social Evolution of Women and Country Music – an historical perspective
So… does art imitate life or does life imitate art?
I’m focusing on the art of Country music for now, because the topic is too broad otherwise. In the songs of the 50s and 60s, women were the ones getting their hearts broken. Kitty Wells (“Am I that Easy to Forget”), Brenda Lee (“Break it to me Gently”) Nobody – then or now – could croon a sorrowful tune like Patsy Cline (“Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces”).
While the sad songs never did (and never will) go out completely, things start to change in the 70s with Barbara Mandrell (“I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”), Shelly West (“Jose Cuervo”), Dolly Parton (“Coat of Many Colors”), and Loretta Lynn (“Coal Miner’s Daughter)” Their music tended to demonstrate that while men were still out there breaking hearts, women had other interests as well.
Then came the 80s & 90s and the ladies started to fight back. Gretchen Wilson (“I’m Here for the Party,” “Redneck Woman” and “All Jacked Up”) Shania Twain (“Whose Bed Have your Boots been Under”, “If You’re not in it For Love I’m Outta Here” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”) and Jessica Andrews (“Bye Bye”) taught the world that women could drink and fight just as hard as a man could. And she could look good and break hearts while she was doing it. And the Dixie Chicks, before their fall from redneck grace, got downright mean with their song about feminine vengeance “Earl.”
Then we were reminded that women had fathers, too, with Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” and George Strait’s “My Little Girl.”
There are a couple of songs out right now that lament the role of the bad mom. The absentee mom in Taylor Swift’s “What You’d think of Me” and the neurotic mom: Reba McEntire’s duet with Kelly Clarkson “Because of You.”
This is a long way from being a comprehensive study of women’s social issues as reflected in music: just something I’ve observed. All of this is just meaningless rambling on my part, but the postings on my sisters’ blogs of late got me thinking more about this. It seems to me that the music of the times emphasizes the differences between the two who reached adulthood in the 50s and 60s and the two of us who came of age in the 70s.
And now back to my first question: Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?
Did the songs come about because of the changes taking place or were the changes inspired by the music?