COUNTRY MUSIC IN THE SEVENTIES
The seventies were a schizophrenic decade for country music. In retrospect it was a generational clash ~ stone country stalwarts versus (mostly) record producers who salivated from afar as Olivia Newton-John hit the stratosphere with "sort-of country" singles and asked themselves, "Why can't I sign me one of those Olivia Newton-Johns? That would be outasite!" What imitation misses, though, is that one can never replicate the indefinable magic that made the original thing so special. Newton-John was never considered a country singer by fans and she herself never tried to be one. She was country the way The Eagles were country, only less so. Her producer slapped a steel guitar onto a couple of her singles and voila! But her 1974 CMA win scared industry bigwigs, and they panicked. Below the radar, however, that same year an unknown singer named Emmylou Harris released an actual country single (with an assist from Charlie Louvin) called, "If I Could Only Win Your Love". It didn't get the press that Olivia garnered, but true country fans noticed.
Thus, country in the seventies wasn't a battle, per se, but a splintering. On one hand we had "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Rub It In"; on the other, "(I'm A) Stand By My Woman Man" and "Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)". Radio listeners didn't have much choice, though. Unless you had enough money to be an audiophile, you were relegated to AM radio, and AM radio followed the prevailing winds. (By the way, why do so many people consider "Jolene" to be a quintessential country song? I find it fingernails-on-a-chalkboard annoying.)
All the pop hits masquerading as country I was bombarded with ultimately pushed me away from country music, and for the longest time I considered the seventies a lost decade. What our memories often do, however sadly, is fixate on the bad, to the detriment of the good. Once I finally re-evaluated, I ashamedly had to admit that the seventies kind of rocked (in a country way). One's just gotta pick through the chaff.
Thus, Hitsvilly is embarking on a quest to name names ~ the most impactful country artists of the nineteen seventies.
Michelle Anderson, Senior Country Editor