Friday, August 24, 2007

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?


Sue said...

I'm inclined to think art imitates life, especially in music. Look at all the patriotic songs that always come out during a war.

Janell said...

I would agree - that's a good point.

Myrnagj said...

I thinkmmusic often reflects the attitudes of the times.

Shirley said...

I think the admen write it all -- life imitates advertising.

Mary Connealy said...

I think art imitates life...but it also pushes the boundaries. Rap music came out of the streets with angry young people, but the music took the most extreme view and kept pushing that view farther and farther until, if we're not careful, we think all young black people embrace a hostile, drug soaked, violent, amoral lifestyle.
We think all southerners and small town people spend their time in bars drinking whiskey and cheating on their wives and we think all young teenage girls forget to don their underwear.
And of course that's not true, so music catches a wave, then goes beyond it and gives that wave a musical definition that isn't true, then at music can lure it's fans out to the extreme edge of behavior.
That's why pop culture is so tricky and can have influences that are regrettable.

Stephanie said...

Music is the most powerful form of freedom of speak, which regrettable was the "fall from grace" for the Dixie Chicks. (I enjoy their music just the same and respect them for opinion.) I am of the opinion that art imitates life, even at the extremes. Our sociality (aka pop culture) demostrates that bell curve with a few at each end and the mass somewhere in the middle.

Go (Country) Girl Power!

Stephanie said...

Sorry for all the typos....just read my comment. Yikes!!!! :0

In a hurry!

LaDawn said...

Art imitates life and life informs art. Civilisation without art is no life at all. People write songs and paint pictures and take photographs about what they know, what they feel, what they see. I love the Dixie chicks especially the song Not Ready to Make Nice which came out after the hoopla. When you listen to those lyrics you realise these women talk a lot of sense!

LaDawn said...

PS I've just spent a long time on YouTube looking for Taylor Swift's music videos. We don't get any country music over here so if you don't tell me about it I don't know about it! I loved the Reba remake with Kelly! Never did find the song of Taylor's you refer to here but I do like her Tim McGraw song. How sweet is that....Reminds of a boy named Joel I used to know.....

Janell said...

I have to agree with Mary's assessment. Artists should realize and exercise the great reponsibility that comes with their talent and popularity and seek to influence in the direction of improving, rather than degrading society.

Myrnagj said...

I keep thinking about Shirley's comment here about the admen. They do think up things for us to want, feel and do. For example, all of those fast food ads in the evening.