Tangent Sunset

The History of Conscious Music by Alex Cosper

Kicking Off the 1980s with Country Tradition


Country music had dipped out of the pop scene in the disco overthrow of the late seventies with exceptions from Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle and Kenny Rogers. But country came back strong in 1980 with the movie Urban Cowboy, which spawned hits from Johnny Lee, Anne Murray and Mickey Gilley. Then Dolly Parton co-starred in the movie 9 To 5, which elevated the title track. It was a very poetic and articulate upbeat tune that spoke of job depression, kind of like the 1978 Johnny Paycheck country classic "Take This Job And Shove It." Dolly hit even bigger a few years later with "Islands In The Stream," a duet with Kenny Rogers, who had a string of storyteller songs. A particular standout song of his was "The Gambler," which told the tale of a gambler who died in his sleep after he enlightened folks about the volatile nature of gambling.

Eddie Rabbit had a string of hits highlighted by the escape song "Drivin' My Life Away." In 1980 Willie Nelson crossed over with "On The Road Again," which was about the life of a musician moving from town to town, showing an appeciation for a mass audience. Other country hits crossed over to pop by Oak Ridge Boys, Juice Newton, Don Williams, Ronnie Milsap and others. As the eighties progressed, country split away from the mainstream but grew bigger in popularity as its own genre. Country music in general harped back on the same traditional family values that were associated with ballroom music and the Victorian era.

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