Recommendation: Hillbilly songs
April 29, 2009
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Last week my recommendation took on an Urban Cowboy theme. This week I want to go back a little farther to the true hillbilly singers. Some people – particularly those from this bygone era – took the term as an insult. Hillbilly was usually said in disdain by the oh-so sophisticated Yankees and anybody else who just didn’t understand the lifestyle. Coming from the hills of Appalachia, the dusty plains of Tornado Alley, and the vast wilderness of the Northwest United States, these hillbillies created a music that was widely commercially successful by the early 1960s, prompting even more hillbilles to dream of Nashville and success in the music business. Loretta Lynn was chief among these.
Lynn was born in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, just outside the town of Pikeville. The daughter of a coal miner, married at 13, she had 5 children by the time she was 19. Loretta Lynn (and her generation) are really the last of the true hillbillies. Her music drips with the kind of energy that only comes from desperate isolation. Today’s ‘hillbillies’ are too much a benefactor of interstates of the internet to really appreciate the hardships their parents and grandparents experienced.
Yeah I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter/I remember well the well where I drew water/The work we done was hard, at night we’d sleep cause we were tired
So my recommendation today is the ultimate hillbilly anthem, a touch of true Americana — not the subgenre of country music — but Americana as in a slice of the American lifestyle. Loretta Lynn wrote ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ in early 1969, and after its release in 1970 it quickly became her signature song. The song tells of Loretta’s early life in the hills of Kentucky; reading the Bible at night, scrubbing clothes on a washboard, and getting a new pair of shoes come Winter after her Daddy sold a hog. This lifestyle is now gone with the wind, but will forever be remembered in song.
So what are your favorite hillbillly songs? And what do you think makes them authentic?
Listen to Loretta Lynn – ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’.