Overall, “The Pill” written by T.D. Bayless et al and sung by Loretta Lynn, not just because the appearance of at least three chicken (hen and rooster)–related metaphors but because it was a blow to the solar-plexus at idea-dead radio music and shows the Blues Brothers’ sort of image of male-chauvanistic country music – that supposedly shown by “Stand By Your Man” that actually describes a man crawling drunk and excusing him as he is “only a man” is having fun at the expense of males – to be so much bullshit by the highbrow who knew far more about opera than the diverse and often brilliant lyrics and voices in country. I have not heard the song on the radio for twenty or thirty years.
For total sound, the soulfullness of the voice, “Oh, Death!” When I brought back this song with me from Japan (with other of Ralph Stanley and his group’s work) in 1998, even my family was hardly interested in listening and just thought I was trying to creep them out or something. Loretta Lynn’s Pill went to number 5 on the country chart and would have gone higher if broadcast were not forbidden by many stations in that age when birth control was thought to be sinful by more than Catholics. “Oh, Death!” was not a popular song but just an obscure oldtime song. The fact that only a popular movie could bring the spotlight to Stanley and the song tells us nothing about the song but testifies to the failure of our radios to introduce us to the best music.
For part of a song, it would have to be Hank William’s “Lovesick Blues” where he tightropes on the edge of a note or notes doing an Emmit Miller-style cross between a yodel and a natural meaningful lament or emphatic – call it natural yodeling or ragged but controlled glissando, whatever – and that more than makes up for his tin voice or the flatness of much of the song. Country music fans in Japan told me that Charley Pride sung the song so much better than Hank. And I would say that in one of those tightroping half-yodels Hank’s singing has more soul than the entire song sung by Charley of the honey voice. Recently, I heard Brandy Carlyle (sp?) do the song’s yodel right – she is the first person to get it since Hank and by introducing it with her on a rare two-show-in-a-row invitation, Garrison Keiler (sp?) finally made ammends for his butchering the Lovesick Blues so badly a few years ago that I have hated him for it ever since!
For sophistication not found outside of country, I would have to mention Tom T Hall’s song which ends on a comment about how he could not find a song in the town – there is a genre of meta-songs that deserve more attention by critics. Unless those comments are on the end of dogs and watrermelon wine or something popular, it might not be a legitamate “popular song.”
For the thrill of lively sound, I would have to say “The Yellow Submarine” as sung by a Japanese folk (traditional minyo) singer. I think it went high up the charts – anyone know how high?
For teaching people to think, “A Boy Named Sue” written by Shel Silverstein and sung by Johny Cash.
For injustice well put, Johny Cash’s Ballad of Iyra Hayes.
For sheer word-play Braddock and Braddock’s "I Lobster You Flounder," or was it vice versa? Again, country beats the rest of pop and opera hands-down. But did this song become “popular” ? That, I do not know for I came to know and love and even lecture on contry music when I lived in Japan.For a long and complex masterpiece, a talking song about St Augustine and an ancient conquistador that ends in a phallic Florida shooting something up to that mighty ovum in the sky and though I traded a copy of my Rise, Ye Sea Slugs for the CD, his name escapes me – wait, it is chris chandler, right? and anny sweeny whose song “if you’ve gone to jail for justice you’re a friend of mine” or something like that also deserves mention as the top activist song because it was made popular by the Mamas and Papas or someone . . . . When/if you comment, by all means give your favorite songs in various categories, and not only those i mention.
Causes Robin Gill Supports
I have been told by readers inspired by my books that they went to work for NGO's because they read my book, but I have been a pauper for so many years now...