Charley Pride Eulogizes Country Classics
Country music isn’t what it used to be. That’s the lament of longtime fans who can still remember when steel guitars trumped slide guitars and male artists wore spangly suits instead of ripped jeans and t-shirts.
And that’s the message underlying the songs of Country Music of Your Life. Presented by Time Life and radio program syndicator Music of Your Life, the new 10-disc collection harks back to what some recall as the genre’s golden age, though old-timers of the late 1950s were as skeptical of its bona fides as today’s traditionalists are about lyrics that extol beer, trucks and Daisy Dukes.
With 36 Number One hits, plus 30 Gold and four Platinum albums internationally, Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride was a giant of those bygone times. Fittingly, he and fellow icon Crystal Gayle are spokespersons on television ads for the collection. Pride’s smash hit “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” and Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” are among its 150 tracks, which also include Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors,” Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get to Phoenix,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date” and other classics.
From gauzy string sections to sentimental reflections on love lost and won, Country Music of Your Life appears to define the style’s essential elements. Yet Pride insists that the collection doesn’t argue in favor of vintage versus contemporary country.
“I don’t go around kicking what country music is going through today because Carrie Underwood and all those people have had so many great hits,” he insists. “When they started bringing in people they referred to as the ‘hat gang’ — I guess it would be Garth (Brooks) and Alan Jackson — I didn’t go around saying, ‘We were better than them!’ or ‘It was better then!’ And Taylor Swift has had so much success from the vantage point of money. I mean, who’s going to kick $53 million a year?”
When pressed on whether the subjects addressed 50-odd years ago did differ markedly from the bro-country bromides of our time, Pride prefers not to comment. “You’ve got to understand,” he responds. “Country music got picked down and put down until it got so hot that everybody else wanted to come over here and do it.”
Pride does acknowledge that the process of picking songs for the collection had more to do with chronology than preconceived criteria. “Let’s start with traditional country music,” he explains. “My dad loved Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. . . I saw Bill Monroe with Roy Acuff, and from there you just walk on up the line with Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams and the ones that weren’t as famous as them but were in that category. For traditional country, I kind of cut if off at George Strait.”
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