Dustin Hixenbaugh teaches writing courses at the University of Texas. He is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature and is completing a dissertation on Cuban, Mexican, and United States historical novels. Before moving to Austin, he taught English at La Joya High School, which is located on the Texas-Mexico border. When he was four, his parents bought him a Fisher Price tape recorder and a couple Dolly Parton cassettes, and he has loved country music ever since. Recently, Dusty has also become an avid podcaster, co-hosting LitWit with his friend Carly Sweder and contributing to UT’s Zeugma series.
Note: You are welcome to comment on this post for credit.
At last, your listicles are up and ready for public viewing. While it’s tempting to keep looking forward, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look back at some of the incredible work y’all have done in the last few weeks.
The only thing that could possibly rival country music for its domination of the market in manufactured sadness and nostalgia is, well, a Disney movie.
So I guess it makes sense that the Mouse House and country music would team up now and again to prey on our emotions and leave a trail of our glistening tears in their wake. Two recent Disney-country collaborations appear on a new album of Disney classics reinterpreted by popular contemporary singers.
Called We Love Country, the collection includes two country songs. The first is “Let It Go,” performed as a duet between Lucy Hale and the Rascal Flatts. Since Frozen is still fairly new and overrated, I didn’t respond strongly to that one. The second country song is Kacey Musgraves’s cover of “A Spoonful of Sugar” — a tune I strongly associate with my childhood. My mom and I watched Mary Poppins, like, daily, and I would stand on the staircase with an open umbrella and pretend I was flying. Musgraves keeps it bouncy and light, but like vinegar and baking soda the steel guitar and my memories of that singing nanny are a mixture that yield a predictable response. I sobbed.
I started this post intending to share my ten favorite Disney-country collaborations. But since I’m running short on Kleenex, I’ll just focus on the top five. They’re ranked in order of the least to most likely to leave me in a puddle.
5. “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again” (2004)
Disney’s cow movie, Home on the Range, is a disaster except for this heart-wrenching ballad by country rocker Bonnie Raitt. For many people (myself included), feeling nostalgic often involves longing for home and brighter days. But how does one go on when there’s no way of knowing if the sun will shine again? The song is good and sad enough it almost makes me feel sympathy for that ditzy, selfish bovine with the voice of Roseanne.
4. The Robin Hood (1973) soundtrack
I’m not sure how the Disney execs came up with the idea of hiring Roger Miller to write the songs for their movie about a medieval English thief. Probably, they wanted him to bring the same zany fun to the film that he had brought to songs like “Dang Me” and “King of the Road” in the mid ’60s. In fact, with the songs “Oo De Lally” and “Not in Nottingham” he gave the movie a soul and an emotional punch. “Oo De Lally” is as much an introduction to the characters of Robin Hood and Little John as it is a testament to their friendship.
3. “On the Front Porch” (1963)
If nostalgia had a voice it would sound like Burl Ives. Though he was a celebrated folk/country singer and an Oscar-winning actor, he is best known for voicing the character of Sam the Snowman on the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special. In Disney’s Summer Magic, he plays a wise country bumpkin, and in one of the film’s best moments he gathers the other characters together to sing along on this ode to family, friends, and the simpler days gone by.
The song was written by Richard and Robert Sherman, who composed the songs for lots of the movies I obsessed over as a kid, including The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977).
2. You’ve Got a Friend in Me (1995)
Pretty much the whole point of Toy Story is to bring the tears of nostalgia into its viewer’s eyes. Do you feel guilty even considering trashing a stuffed animal you haven’t touched in ten years? Blame director John Lasseter. “Woody’s Round-Up,” performed by Riders in the Sky, appears in Toy Story 2 and is the franchise’s most traditional country song, but the tune that brings these movies’ fans to tears is “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” At the end of the first film, the song is performed as a duet between Randy Newman and alt.country singer Lyle Lovett. Like Woody and Buzz, they’re an odd but perfect combination.
1. “Baby Mine” (1996)
This song from Dumbo is one of Disney’s most enduring classics. In 1996, Allison Krauss covered it for the album The Best of Country Sing the Best of Disney, and though the single floundered on the charts it netted her a Grammy nomination.
Like Mary Poppins and Toy Story, Dumbo isn’t just a movie I watched as a child — it’s a movie about the experience of being a child. How better to remind viewers how it felt to be both scared and comforted as a child than through a lullaby? Krauss’s version adds a bridge and a modern sound, and though the original brings me tears, it’s the cover that makes me melt. I sing the song pretty regularly to my own son at bedtime, which means my emotional attachment — not to mention the puddles of tears — will only grow in the years to come
Nostalgia is a difficult topic to discuss with other people because we all have such different experiences. Do Disney movies give you the same feels that country music does? What Disney-country collaborations that I’ve left off the list do you remember and love? Share in the comments!
The Country Music Association (CMA) was founded in 1958 while country music was experiencing something of an identity and commercial crisis. With Elvis Presley, rock music, and the Top 40 format all on the rise, industry leaders feared that if they didn’t take action country music could disappear completely.
One of the CMA’s goals was to prove to the world outside of Nashville that country music had a significant audience and could make a lot of money. In a memo to radio stations interesting in tapping into the country audience, the organization offered the following guidelines:
Don’t approach the Country Music listener as a “different” type animal. . . . Don’t instruct your announcer to “sound country.” There is no reason for deejays to take on a phony accent, or drawl, because they’re programming Country Music. Don’t assume the Country Music listener is less intelligent than any other. . . . Be careful that your programming is not slanted down to your audience. Country Music fans are intelligent people. (Qtd. in Pecknold 147)
Since 1961, the CMA has also operated a Hall of Fame (HOF). The HOF’s procedures have evolved over time, but recently it has stuck to inducting members in three categories. The first category recognizes a “Veterans Era” performer, which means an artist or group that rose to national prominence at least 45 years ago. The second category recognizes a “Modern Era” performer, which means an artist or a group that rose to national prominence between 20 and 45 years ago. Lastly, the HOF makes an additional induction every year of someone who isn’t a performer. Sometimes it’s an instrumentalist, songwriter, or comedian. Other times, it’s a producer or studio executive. In our class, we’ll focus on the “Veteran” and “Modern” performer categories.
In class today, you will write a response to this post that includes two parts.
First, summarize the criteria that the HOF uses to decide the artists that it will induct. To do this, you will need to extrapolate your answer from a variety of sources including the excerpt from The Selling Sound and the HOF’s website. You’ll notice that both of these sources indicate several reasons that a performer may be inducted. Which to you seem like the most important?
Second, select one performer who has been inducted since 2009 and explain how he or she meets the criteria that you just outlined. You will need to do some additional research into the performer that you choose (using Wikipedia, etc.) to explain your answer.
Lastly, if you already know who you want to propose as a new member of the HOF in your final paper of the semester, then say who it is and briefly why.
Note to students: You’re welcome to comment on this post for a grade.
Earlier this week, the Country Music Hall of Fame formally welcomed its new class of inductees, which included the vocal harmony groups the Browns (in the Veterans Era category) and the Oak Ridge Boys (in the Modern Era category), as well as the iconic guitarist Grady Martin. At some point, the new members and the old members who attended the ceremony got together for the kind of photograph that my family takes after weddings and other family reunions. Looking at the picture, I had the following thoughts:
Of course Brenda Lee is sitting in Grady’s son’s lap. She’s 70 years old and still the queen of the “Christmas party hop.”
What a shame that Jim Ed Brown, the best known of the three Browns, couldn’t make it. At least the Hall of Fame had the heart to bring the medal to his hospital bed before he died.
For all the complaining I do about the Hall of Fame, I have to admit they made a great decision inducting Connie White. Despite the record-shattering success she had with “Once a Day” in 1964, she’s exactly the kind of woman performer that the Hall of Fame typically overlooks.
In this group, Vince Gill (58) and Garth Brooks (53) look like teenagers. Vince needs to shave.
I also couldn’t help but wonder about all the people without medals who were left to stand around eating cocktail weenies on toothpicks while the picture was being taken — among them Garth’s wife Trisha Yearwood and Connie’s husband Marty Stuart.
But Trisha and Marty are only two of many worthy performers who are still waiting for the Hall to welcome them in. Being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame wouldn’t mean anything if they let everybody in, and yet there are some exclusions that make me scratch my head more than others.
Here are five names that I would love to see recognized next year with plaques in that hallowed Nashville rotunda:
1. Rose Maddox
Rose Maddox led a storied career as a sassy country belle for more than 40 years. As the lead vocalist of the Maddox Brothers and Rose in the 1940s and 1950s, she helped invent rockabilly music, she popularized the flashy suits that everyone from Porter Wagoner to Marty Robbins would be wearing by the late 1960s, and she primed the live country scene in California for the likes of Wynn Stewart (also uninducted), Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard. As a soloist in the 1960s, she had several chart hits, and her influence can be heard in many of the women who followed her into the industry, among them Jean Shepard, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton — all of whom (but Wanda, see below) have beat poor Rose into the Hall of Fame. Seriously, what more can a gal do?
2. Skeeter Davis
In 1953, Skeeter Davis and her friend Betty Jack Davis made history as the first female group to hit #1 on the country charts with “I Forgot More than You’ll Ever Know about Him.” Their hopes of becoming a successful duo were dashed later that summer, when Betty Jack was killed in a car accident. A few years later, Skeeter re-emerged as a solo performer, and in the early 1960s she racked up a number of pop-country crossover hits including “The End of the World,” which is one of the decade’s most enduring songs in any genre. In the 1970s, she shed her image as an innocent girl singer and recorded edgier material including the anti-war song “One Tin Soldier.” Along with Dottie West she is one of the few major stars of the Nashville Sound era who hasn’t yet been recognized by the Hall of Fame.
3. Stonewall Jackson
While we’re on the subject of big stars from the 1960s who’re still waiting for their Hall of Fame plaques, let’s talk about Stonewall Jackson. As one might expect from a guy who was named after a Confederate general, Jackson brought an appreciation of history to some of his biggest hits, among them 1959’s “Waterloo,” which uses Napoleon’s defeat as an allegory for falling in love, and 1966’s “The Minutemen (Are Turning in Their Graves),” which draws a contrast between the American Revolution and the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s.
He hasn’t recorded a new album since the late 1970s, but he has continued to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. Why he hasn’t been inducted yet is anybody’s guess. Maybe it’s because the lawsuit he filed against the Opry in 2008 for age discrimination turned some powerful Nashvillians against him. Maybe it’s because the Hall of Fame knows that late night TV shows and The Onion will have a field day if it inducts an artist whose name conjures such strong images of the Confederate south. Whatever the hold-up is, I just hope the Hall gets over it while the guy’s still alive to enjoy it. The pictures of him attending other people’s induction ceremonies are heartbreaking.
4. Wanda Jackson
I fell in love with Wanda Jackson last year, when I caught her performing a live show at the Continental Club. Even at age 77, she was a ball of fire, shrieking like a sex-starved inmate during “Riot in Cell Block #9,” yodeling her way through “I Betcha My Heart I Love You,” and turning the heat up on Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has rightfully recognized her contributions to rock music, but really, rock was a short detour for Jackson, who started her career singing country music and returned to country music when the rockabilly moment passed. In the 60s, she racked up an enviable number of Top 40 country hits, including “The Box It Came In” (1966) and “My Big Iron Skillet” (1969), which warned no-good husbands that their wives might do them in if they didn’t clean up their acts. As a sign of her versatility, Jackson has also recorded albums in German and Japanese.
5. Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank, Jr., has sold 70 million albums over the course of a career that began in in 1964 and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. With eleven #1 songs (and more than 30 others that reached the Top 10), he is, as my country blog-hero Trigger puts it, “the most decorated artist to not be in the Hall of Fame who has been eligible for an extended period.” I don’t care for the guy’s politics, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a major and positive influence on country music, or that the Hall hasn’t taken too long getting ’round to recognizing him. Make it a “Family Tradition,” y’all.
With the 2015 induction complete, the Country Music Hall of Fame can turn its attention to selecting the next three members to join its exclusive ranks. This country fan can only hope that when the new class is announced early next year that one of these five deserving names will finally be called.
Before we turn our attention to writing new papers, let’s take a minute to celebrate the old ones. Here is a comprehensive list of the Buzzfeed-style articles that everyone wrote. Take a look, leave some comments, share your favorites with your followers on Facebook and Twitter, etc.