With Gretchen Wilson headlining the Country Music Festival this year on Oct. 12, it is obvious how much the image of women in country music has changed since I was a kid.
In her tragically brief career, Patsy Cline recorded three studio albums, one compilation album, six EPs, 24 singles and seven B sides. There were 59 songs in all, and none will ever be confused with “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.
There were two songs that I’d consider upbeat in both lyrics and melody - “I Love You Honey” and “Got a Lot of Rhythm in My Soul.” Both were released as singles, and neither made it to an album.
There were also two songs about faith, “Dear God” and “That Wonderful Someone,” and four about life, “True Love;” “Poor Man’s Roses;” “If I Could See the World Through the Eyes of a Child;” and “Come On In, Sit Right Down and Make Yourself at Home.”
The rest of her body of work is an absolute sobfest.
There are 32 songs about lost love: “In Care of the Blues;” “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again;” “I Can’t Forget You;” “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray;” “Walkin After Midnight;” “Fingerprints;” “I Fall to Pieces;” “The Wayward Wind;” “South of the Border;” “Seven Lonely Days;” “San Antonio Rose;” “Have You Ever Been Lonely;” “She’s Got You;” “Heartaches;” “That’s Me Desire;” “Anytime;” “Half As Much;” “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love With You;” “Lonely Street;” “Stop the World and Let Me Off;” “Honky Tonk Merry Go Round;” “A Church, a Courtroom and Then Goodbye;” “Lovin’ In Vain;” “Lovesick Blues;” “There He Goes;” “Who Can I Count On?” “You’re Stronger Than Me;” “I’ve Loved and Lost Again;” “Yes, I Understand;” “Crazy Dreams;” “Leavin’ On Your Mind;” and “Cry Not For Me.”
Ten songs about unrequited love: “Hungry for Love;” “Then You’ll Know;” “Crazy;” “Strange;” “You Were Only Fooling While I Was Falling in Love;” “Just Out of Reach;” “I Can See an Angel;” “So Wrong;” “When I get Through With You;” “Imagine That;” and “Why Can’t He Be You?”
Five songs about unfaithful Love: “Too Many Secrets;” “Foolin’ Round;” “Your Cheatin’ Heart;” “Turn the Cards Slowly;” and “Hidin’ Out.”
Five songs about helpless love: “I Don’t Wanna;” “I Love You So Much It Hurts;” “You Made Me Love You;” “You Belong to Me;” and “Today Tomorrow and Forever.”
And one song about lost money, “Ain’t No Wheels on This Ship.”
I Asked my friend Kelly, who requests Patsy Cline about every other time you ask what he wants to hear, why she could never be happy. Those were tough times, he replied.
But in reality, by the 1950s and ‘60s we were coming out of tough times. A new music, rock ‘n roll, celebrated what was new and happy. Country music seemed to cling to what was old and sad. When one of the foundational songs of the genre is “Man of Constant Sorrow,” you’re bound to have some weepy songs come after.
But it does seem like there was a difference based on sex. Men were allowed to swing back and forth between heartbreak and drunken debauchery, Hank Williams wrote “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” but countered that with “Settin’ the Woods on Fire.”
Patsy Cline was stuck with only heartbreak.
I suspect that most country music fans back then were men, and kind of liked the idea of a woman weeping and waiting for her man to come back.
Well, that’s all changed.
Gretchen Wilson introduced herself to the world with her 2004 CD and song “Here For the Party.” The opening line is: “Well I'm an eight-ball shooting, double-fisted drinking, son of a gun.”
Pleased to meet you.
There’s no question that the message of Gretchen Wilson is a lot more appealing, and I’m looking forward to seeing her in concert. But, weepy or not, nothing compares to “Walking After Midnight.”
Walt Rubel has been a journalist since 1982, working in Las Cruces since 2002. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org