Blast from the Past Weekend Reminds Us That Pop Can Go Country and Country Can Go Pop [VIDEO]
Here we are in the middle of the Blast from the Past Weekend. And that’s absolutely the perfect name for it–judging from Facebook comments, we’ve all been having a blast listening to this great classic country music. And, hopefully, it’s allowed us to reminisce, get a little nostalgic, remember some great moments in country music history. That’s already happened for me a number of times. In one, I think, 4 hour period yesterday, I heard a Charlie Rich song and a John Denver song. And, boy, do those late, great musicians ever have a storied past!
At the 1975 Country Music Association Awards (and I wish I’d seen this), Charlie Rich stepped to the podium to present the evening’s final award–Entertainer of the Year. Charlie had won it the previous year. When he opened the envelope, he did not announce the name of the winner. Instead, he pulled out a lighter and set fire to it. The winner was John Denver who was not in attendance and accepted via satellite–once, everyone learned who had won. My theory has always been that Charlie Rich objected to pop stars “invading” his country music territory. Indeed, in the mid-70s, pop and rock superstars like Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, and the Eagles all had success on the country charts. But the old Silver Fox (Charlie’s nickname) was mistaken if he thought there were those who would congratulate him for this radical exposition. It was damaging to Charlie in multiple ways, and his success waned in the process. I find this story kind of ironic in a couple of ways, actually. First, Charlie Rich had huge pop crossover success with his music. And then look at what we have today. Pop and rock artists are crossing over again. Big names like Kelly Clarkson, Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker have had huge country hits. British pop star Natasha Bedingfield is currently a duet partner with Rascal Flatts on the new song “Easy” which should be a hit if the trio’s track record is any indication. And former pop/rock superstar Darius Rucker (as lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish) is a now a mainstream country artist. And just look at the 80s. How many big country hits have you heard this weekend that were also huge on the pop charts? “Nine to Five” by Dolly Parton, “You and I” by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle, “Lady” by Kenny Rogers. Honestly the list of country-to-pop hits from that decade is too long to include here. But you get the idea. The fact is, back in the day, if a song was popular, pop radio played it, regardless of what it sounded like. “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys is as country as a song can get, and yet it peaked in the top five of the Billboard pop charts. And it’s because it was POPULAR. Today? Well, far more people than ever before have a wide variety of musical tastes. I hardly talk to anyone anymore who only listens to one type of music. And these are some of the same listeners who were right there with their requests for Dolly Parton, George Jones, and Conway Twitty when this Blast from the Past Weekend commenced. Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker, and Kelly Clarkson on country radio? Not a bit surprised. They just love country music. And all are welcome. Sorry, Charlie.