Country music is a cherished genre that has existed in some form for over a century. In many ways, country music is the direct descendant of American folk music, and plays the same role today. This style is the music of the everyman, a style without the glitz and glamour that other popular styles have embodied.
Over the decades, country music has changed dramatically and in some ways the music is almost unrecognizable from the country songs that were popular before the 1960s. This trend can be seen with many popular country musicians who have also changed their own musical style several times over their career.
Here are 5 Country Artists That Will Always Be Remembered
1. Hank Williams
One of the most respected and influential country artists of all time, Williams existed during the “golden era” of country music. From the late 1930s up until his death in 1952, Williams had a string of hits during the period when radio was king. Even among the greats of country music, Hank Williams has possibly inspired more future country and rock musicians than anyone else including immensely famous artists like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and more.
2. Kenny Rogers
Rogers has an interesting place in the world of music. While he is a certified country music legend, his work has transcended this genre as he branched out to many other different types over the years. From pop to rock fans, young and old, everyone knows Rogers and his music and he will be remembered for his incredible contributions and extensive career.
While he had a massive list of hit songs including Lady and Islands in the Stream, his signature song The Gambler will be the one he is most remembered for. His music changed during the 1980s, as this is the time he started his notable duets with Dolly Parton, a period that is beloved by fans. Rogers remains as one of the highest selling artists in history, and in 2013 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
3. Willie Nelson
With his long braids, legal troubles, history of activism and rebel attitude, Willie Nelson is something of a legend of folklore or a counter-culture icon. While mostly a country and folk-rock musician, he also dabbled in blues, jazz, reggae and gospel over the years, helping him appeal to a wide fanbase in the process.
Nelson’s music has a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable. From his high tenor voice to the specific pitch and melodic rhythms of his guitar playing, every song is clearly a Willie Nelson song and helped him set himself apart from the many other musicians of his era. Enjoying a long career, he got his start in the late 1950s and continues to make music and occasionally perform live. Surpassing his role as a country music singer, along the way Willie became a full-fledged American symbol.
4. Neil Young
While there were many artists of his era that blurred the lines between country, folk and rock music, no one did it more successfully than Neil Young. Not only was he an acclaimed solo artist, his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash and others allowed him to branch out and he had some of his most memorable songs during these different periods.
There are so many elements that make Young’s music unique and memorable but before you discuss the sound, you have to mention the content. The plain fact is that no one could tell a story like Neil Young could and this ability put him in a different league all together. From soulful songs like Old Man to activist rallying tracks like Southern Man and Alabama, to the electrifying hits of songs like Rockin’ in the Free World, Neil Young knew how to capture the listener’s attention and get a message across.
5. Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash will always be remembered as one of the biggest country music stars of all time and as an artist that shaped the genre. His distinct and powerful voice marked him as one of the greatest singers and earned him fans around the world. The music Cash played had straightforward guitar that chugged along giving his songs a rhythm that some called a “railroad sound.”
While his music was remarkable, the image and symbolism of the man is even more iconic. In every sense, Johnny Cash embodied “outlaw country.” He wore all black most of the time, giving the appearance that he was always on his way to a funeral. His run-ins with the law were extensive, and this coupled with his prison activism, outlaw songs like Folsom Prison Blues and his legendary prison concerts ensured that Cash would always have a fanbase amongst the underbelly of society. From bikers, to criminals and the so called 1%ers of the world, Cash will be remembered as an almost spiritual figure. In 1980, Cash became the youngest (living) artist to ever be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at the age of just 48 years old.
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