Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000 Hardcover – Sep 2003
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In their sweeping survey, anthropologist Bufwack and music writer Oermann detail an integral interconnection between these women and the music they nurtured and influenced, weaving together a single tale of working women and country music. . . . A lively story of struggle and ultimate survival.--"Billboard"
About the Author
Mary A. Bufwack is a cultural anthropologist who specializes in women's studies. Robert K. Oermann is a music journalist whose honors include the Country Music Association's Media Achievement Award.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
TO thirteen-year-old Emma Bell, the mist-shrouded Appalachian Mountain vales around her hometown were places of thrilling romance, of wild beauty, of escape from her stiff-necked Presbyterian home life. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Because this book is about social history as well as country music, it reminds us of life as it used to be without tap water and without electricity. While men spent all day working on the farm or in the factory, women spent all day doing the housework. This included fetching water in buckets from the nearest well, among other chores that are long since consigned to history in the developed world. So it was that the kind of songs that women sang were often very different from the kind of songs that men sang. Over time, technology, wars and other developments changed everybody's lives.
Two world wars opened opportunities for women. In between, an economic depression, compounded by the dust bowl, caused mass-migration as people fled the impoverished southern states. All these developments and others became reflected in the music that women sang and recorded. The mass-migration that started in the thirties took country music all around America. Later, American troops took their music to wherever they served in he second world war including Europe, Australia and Japan. Social changes including women's liberation all made their mark on country music. In business generally, women had to fight hard to break down barriers, and country music reflects this. As women have penetrated male business bastions, they have attained important managerial and boardroom position in the country music business. The book suggests that Frances Preston is one of the most influential people in country music, or in any music. Maybe, but your average country music fan has probably never heard of her. Still, she deserves her place in this book.
As far as the music itself is concerned, every aspect of country music seems to be covered, including women raised on country music but who became successful pop singers, as well as outsiders who achieved varying degrees of success within country music. In the forties, it seems that there was an abundance of female country singers performing live, most famously Rose Maddox, but the male-dominated country music industry didn't give them much of a chance on record. Yet some of the most successful female pop singers of the era were raised on country, including the Dinning sisters, Patti Page, Dinah Shore, Kay Starr and Jo Stafford. To varying degrees, their country heritage shows in their recorded music. Margaret Whiting was the first outsider to make a big impact on country music, when she teamed up with Jimmy Wakely for a series of duets. Those duets had an impact that lasted long after Margaret and Jimmy stopped recording together. It seems that country music fans happily accepted Margaret at the time, but other outsiders were controversial. Olivia Newton-John made a big impact on country music for a time in the mid-seventies, but while she had plenty of supporters, others were hostile to say the least. All of these singers are discussed, though of course the women that have made their career in country music get more coverage.
All the big names that you would expect to find are discussed, but it is refreshing to read, however briefly, about some singers who I wouldn't necessarily have expected to get a mention, such as Sheila Andrews, Diana Trask, the Burch sisters and Dottsy. Female songwriters such as Cindy Walker, Susanna Clark and Rhonda Kye Fleming are also given due coverage, although Matraca Berg and Beth Neilsen Chapman only get a couple of brief mentions each in passing. The first edition of this book was published in 1993, when they were still establishing their reputations. The revisions for the second edition seem to focus mainly on the singers.
With a substantial bibliography as well as an index to the 500+ main pages, this book is a veritable goldmine of information. Any quibbles I have are minor, as this will be one of my most-referenced books for years to come.
My congratulations to the authors for their work!
Written by Robert K. Oermann and Mary A. Bufwack
(Country Music Foundation Press)
An invaluable book, outling the history of women in country music, from Day One. This husband/wife team made themselves into a franchise as historians and commentators for the TNN country cable network... Here they present the female side of the country equation, moving historically from the pre-recording days back in Hog Hollar, to the gradual entry of women into the growing "hillbilly" music industry, and finally into the hallowed halls of the Grand Ole Opry and the mainstream of commercial country. The writing is generally good, and the scope of the book is impressive. The authors pay special attention to the contradictions of women's place in early country -- they were important keepers of folk traditions, but not allowed to perform professionally -- as well as to the persistent stereotyping and creative restrictions placed on them my the Nashville establishment. This book may be a bit exhaustive, but it's an awesome bit of pop scholarship. Besides, they turned me onto the foul-mouthed mid-'50s proto-rockabilly filly, Charlene Arthur, which was worth the price of admission alone. Highly recommended! (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue Guide To Country Music)
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