The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 12

By Bill C. Malone | Go to book overview

MUSIC

For more than a century and a half, the South has fired the imagination of musicians and songwriters. As a land of romance and enchantment and as the home of exotic people—both black and white—the South has inspired a seemingly unending body of songs that speak longingly of old Virginia or the hills of Caroline, while also singing the praises of the region’s towns, counties, hills, rivers, bayous, plains, and people. As a source of songs and musical images, the South has inspired a veritable industry of songwriters, from Stephen Foster, Will Hays, and Dan Emmett in the 19th century, to Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael, Allen Toussaint, Tom T. Hall, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr., Robbie Robertson, and Randy Newman in our own time. Visions of lonesome pines, lazy rivers, snow-white cotton fields, smoky mountains, hanging moss, and eccentric gothic-styled characters have forever ignited the creativity of America’s poets and lyricists, while also fulfilling the fantasies of an audience that prefers to believe there is a land where time moves slowly, where life is lived simply and elementally, and whose inhabitants hold clearly defined values and dearly love to make music.

Southerners have made music, and many of them have performed it with distinction, thereby contributing immeasurably to the making and enrichment of American music as a whole. Singers, songwriters, musicians, merchandisers (promoters and record producers), folklorists, and others whose lives in some way intersect with music have proliferated in the South. Some performers, of course—like Mary Martin, Kate Smith, and Ann Miller—have carried little of the South in their styles. Nevertheless, like classical pianist Van Cliburn or opera singer Leontyne Price, many have become internationally famous. The success enjoyed by such musicians has been immensely satisfying to the regional pride of southerners, but these entertainers project little regional identity. On the other hand, such singers as Jimmie Rodgers, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Charlie Daniels have exhibited southernness in their dialects and lifestyles. And their music has, for the most part, embodied styles of performance that were indigenous to or deeply rooted in the South. A few performers, such as Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams Jr., and the “southern rock” musicians, have been selfconsciously southern in their aggressive “nationalism” or “regionalism.” Con

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The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 12
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • General Introduction xiii
  • Introduction xix
  • Music 1
  • Index of Contributors 393
  • Index 395
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