The music of the west has differed so much from the music played in the country where I was from, South Korea. These differences have made me more curious and more inclined to the new music that I’ve been acquainted. Of the entire different music genre’s that were present in this country, what has especially caught my attention was the field of Country music.
The first that I have a chance to listen to this kind of music was when I was in sophomore high school, when my roommate/best friend have played a series of songs which according to him where country music. Since then, I have always been a fan of country music. It expresses a message or a sort of story that was wonderfully crafted with the right combination of melody and rhythm that is not harsh for the ears. I really enjoyed listening with this kind of music, especially those that where popularized by Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.
The Father of Country Music
Jimmie Rodgers’ songs were composed of story related songs, something that seems to capture the heart and mind of the listeners not just by the way he played the music but with the entertaining words he used that usually contains experiences that everyone can relate into. This, I believe, is how he connects with other people.(Potterfied)
I think this kind of skill had developed in him, because of the nature of his work as a brakeman on the railways of Mississippi. As far as his biographies goes, he had worked in the railroads, ever since he was just fourteen years of age. Through his work, he was said to become familiar with “Blues”; a genre that came from the black Americans and he became accustom to the stories that the different people on the train have. Some have shared their dreams, others have shared their misfortunes, and all of these can be reflected on the music of Jimmie Rodgers.
It is also said that he began singing even before fourteen years old. However, his father would not permit him to do so. Due to this fact, he had succumbed to the wishes of his father, up until he caught tuberculosis when he was twenty four that had impaired him, causing him to drop his work, as a brakeman, when he was already twenty seven.
Indeed, this incident is awful, but this had been a blessing in disguise for Rodgers because this had led into an open door for him to go back to what he really wants to do, which is to sing and play music. People have fell in love with his music more than ever, and as he tell them more of their sufferings and joys, they became more and more fascinated and amaze on how he have managed to have all this information and feelings.
Jimmie Rodgers is now regarded as the “father of country music”. His music is composed of ballads, blues and folk songs. He was popular for the Blue Yodel series, which is composed of thirteen different songs that depict the journey of trains or of the people inside the trains, it also includes their stories and a yodel refrain, that sounds like the train’s whistle. (Potterfied)
My favorite song by Jimmie Rodgers was “Waiting for a Train” which has a lovely rhythm that makes the listeners feel more relax and the story was captivating and funny. It tells something about a “bum” who was sleeping in the railroads when he was found by the brakeman. According to the lyrics, he felt as if, nobody wants him anymore or that nobody cares for him. It also states “homesickness” and the feeling of being alone in a strange place with people that one he dose not know.
The First Family of Country Music
The Carter Family on the other hand, was composed of Alvin Pleasant Carter, Sara and Maybelle. Alvin Pleasant was said to have collected songs all over the country sides of Virginia and incorporate this songs and their music to ballads. It was also noted that the two female were the ones who have arranged these songs. Most of their songs were gospel songs and highlands or folk songs. (Carlene)
The family was known for Maybelle’s guitar playing style which is now known or called as the “Carter style”. She was also known to establish the female’s role in country music and started popularizing the use of guitar as a solo instrument. She was rendered as “the Queen of Country Music”. The other members also play instruments, such as Alvin who played fiddle and Sara who played the auto-harp. (Davidoff)
My favorite song of the Carter Family was “Keep on the Sunny Side”, which is actually an inspirational song. What I love about this song is the acknowledgement of the fact that life has its pitfalls and among this troubles that we may o might be experiencing, we must also look or remember the sunny side of life or those that expresses happy memories and positive thoughts. This song reminds me that life is all about perspective, if you want to see it this or that way depends solely on what kind of thoughts, feelings or emotion does the person would like to have or experience.
The Carter Family is renowned to be the first Country Family, which I find appropriate for them, since up until today, there are generations of the family that are still into country music. Also, I would like to stress that the music by the Carter family where very lively and encouraging and/or motivating. It is something that one should listen to if he is feeling down or is bothered by something and is losing hope.
Similarities and Differences
What major similarities among the the songs or music by Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family aside from the Genre was the fact that both of them captivate the listeners by giving them a new trend of music. A music that was not about the urban area, not solely about romantic love but a music that would make its listeners use or exercise their imagination and feel the emotion that was catered by the lyrics and music.
Both of them denotes that there was a change in the audience attitude towards music, that the audience would also want their story told and that they want a music that has a deeper meaning. I mean, it has something that would not only make the audience listen but would make them contemplate as well as sympathized. This kind of music in my opinion is better than just to enjoy listening to the sounds of the instruments alone.
With regards to their use of instruments, both have been able to perform well using guitar, which was not really popular among the performers of those days. They both have their own style in playing the guitar, in able to make the music their own. Both of their music was also plain, although the Carter family’s music was stylized with Maybelle’s distinct techniques, while Rodgers signifies the Blues. (Malone)
Although as I have said, their music both posses a folk and country-side atmosphere, the two trends differ largely on the audience and the story that they would like to express. While the Carter Family was singing about the hopes and encouragement for the hopeless and lonely listener, Jimmie Rodgers’ music would tell us something about the practical things that can be experience in this life.
Also, Jimmie Rodgers has been a solo artist while the Carter Family was a band consists of three members. Rodgers’ music where not directly lifting up the spirit of his audience but barely singing their worries away or making them blatant enough to be addressed. The Carter Family’s music were mainly a livening music, a kind of music that would make you realize the life you have and how you should view it in able for you to improve or move forward. Both have also started out in able to save a few dollars from singing and landed on signing contracts from Peers and Victor, although the Carter have switch to American Recording Company, late in their career.(Malone, 37)
Their music were really my favorite music because it drives some of my worries away and it makes me feel as if someone is there who will be willing to listen to all of my plights in life. Country music have let modern music reach to the most detach part of the land and the music of the hills and the meadows to reach the vast and busy streets of the city. Their music has helped me through my down times and has made me realize of the good things in life, giving me a more positive outlook in life. Both of their music was nice for the ears, I mean they would not make one’s eardrum explode, like the modern popular music of our time.
Carlin, Richard. Country Music: a Biographical Dictionary. USA: Routledge, 2003.
Davidoff, Nicholas. In The Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American. Vintage Books, 1998.
Malone, Bill C. Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class :Music in American Life. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
Porterfield, Nolan. Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1992.