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Wow. That's a good little inquiry. I'm no authority, but my feeling is that rock music has a sort of tradition of revolution and moving forward, so that would lean more towards originality. Whereas country music is more about traditional things and roots, so country artists are more inclined to play older tunes.

 

OR, if you mean in the modern sense, that there's lots of country swill that is written by people in the shadows and performed by "personalities", to me that's just because commercial country performers are as much artists as mainstream rap performers. ie they're just there to look good and sell records

 

 

 

 

That probably didn't help much. Anyone else?

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Great thread. No question that the premise holds true. I can't speak for the rubbish that passes for country music today, but it is certainly true for most of the mainstays of the genre.

 

Hmpf. Must do some digging now.

 

As a corollary, country artists seem much more prone to borrow, record and cover each other's tunes as well.

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OR, if you mean in the modern sense, that there's lots of country swill that is written by people in the shadows and performed by "personalities", to me that's just because commercial country performers are as much artists as mainstream rap performers. ie they're just there to look good and sell records

 

I think this is pretty good actually.

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I don't think it has anything to do with "quality" however you define that. I was cross-checking the Billboard 200 with AMG to see if the claim seemed true using the most popular stuff right now (seems so) and the rock albums that are popular are just as crappy (with some exceptions) as the country (as are the rap/hip-hop).

 

I really think it has something to do with traditions (as markosis mentioned) and rock music evolving along a different path than country music. If you look at the two genres 50 years ago, I think you would find a similar (and small) likelihood of a song being written by the artist performing it in both rock and country. But, something seems to have happened along the way that caused rock artists to start writing and and country artists not to (on the whole).

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It was really not until the arrival of The Beach Boys/Beatles/Dylan that rock music dudes began writing their own stuff. Before that, what you had was Fabian and those sort of dudes - which we have yet again today, in the form of all those TV talent show singers and bands.

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If I had to credit one band/artist, it would be the Beatles. Dylan was coming from a different tradition, one where singing your own songs was more common than in the mainstream music at the time. The Beatles on the other hand started out as a typical mainstream product and evolved into something entirely different. I feel like they raised the bar (in many ways other than this as well) and forced other bands in the mainstream to start writing (e.g. The Rolling Stones) and forced new bands that would come along after them to write. This is obviously an oversimplification and it didn't occurred as any sort of big bang, but I really believe the Beatles were the driving force in the movement to writing your own stuff.

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the beatles were the driving force because dylan was first. basically there was pressure from management to write their own songs because they could entice other artists to record them & in turn make more $$$$$$$. that is why the stones were talked into it as well.

 

not sure why this phenomena didn't happen as much in country (in the past). it seems like it happened more in the 70s with country artists, especially as they became superstars (ala Alabama).

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the beatles were the driving force because dylan was first. basically there was pressure from management to write their own songs because they could entice other artists to record them & in turn make more $$$$$$$. that is why the stones were talked into it as well.

 

not sure why this phenomena didn't happen as much in country (in the past). it seems like it happened more in the 70s with country artists, especially as they became superstars (ala Alabama).

 

 

Really? I've never heard that version at all. For their second single I know that their management and George Martin wanted them to record How Do You Do It, but lennon/mccartney protested and were able to record Please Please Me. And from then on they just stuck to their own stuff (for singles at least). I would imagine that money had something to do with it, but from the management's perspective, they would make money regardless and How Do You Do It was definitely a hit. I think the major catalyst was the fire that the boys had since before the Hamburg days to make a name for themselves.

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I'm not up on my Beatles history, so I'm on a completely different line of thought here.

 

I've worked in the country music business for a while now. There is an ABUNDANCE of country music under the glitzy veneer of Nashville that is great singer/songwriter stuff. You just gotta know where to look. There are even a few floating around on the charts.

 

Nashville is quite the interesting place nowadays. Kinda creepy in some ways, too. Major record labels in Nashville have "writing wings" and floors in which songwriters are hired and payed by the hour to write music. Every Monday, a "cheat sheet" is sent out that lets these writers know who's recording and what they're looking for. It might read something like: Faith Hill-songs about rain, Sarah Evans- divorce songs, Kenny Chesney- Fishing songs. Then, they go from there.

 

If you think about Johnny Cash at San Quentin or how Willie's massive phenomena of fans grew, they played to the workers, the criminals, the bar brawlers, the rednecks. They sang songs about hell and death and drug addiction, because their music was meant to be for the people of the country. Now, Top 40 country is designed exclusively for 30 year old soccor moms in GMC Yukons with 4,000 sq. ft. houses. Record labels are feeding their hungriest demographic, which isn't people in the rurals. Not by a landslide.

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It was really not until the arrival of The Beach Boys/Beatles/Dylan that rock music dudes began writing their own stuff. Before that, what you had was Fabian and those sort of dudes - which we have yet again today, in the form of all those TV talent show singers and bands.

This is correct.....

 

LouieB

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I know I've said this before in other,similar threads but the best thing to happen to rock songwriting (in general) was a by-product of Dylan turning the Fabs onto marijuana.It really raised the bar from the girls/cars/love cliches into more shall we say 'introspective' areas.

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It was really not until the arrival of The Beach Boys/Beatles/Dylan that rock music dudes began writing their own stuff. Before that, what you had was Fabian and those sort of dudes - which we have yet again today, in the form of all those TV talent show singers and bands.

 

Didn't Chuck Berry write most of his own songs though? I can think of a lot of examples of guys who at least co-wrote a bunch of their hits, pre-Beatles.

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There are going to be counter-examples to anything but in general, there is some point when it became the norm for rock musicians (certain sub-genres excluded) to write their own stuff. The question to me is why and why didn't it happen in country music.

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OR maybe that answer is overall most of the popular bands of the day where having songs written for them. I am also talking about the shape things were in before the british invasion - just as Nirvana and those who came after blew away whatever crap was around at the time. I have this theory that this happens at the start of every decade - or it seems that way. I don't really care for The White Stripes, The Hives, The We are Just ripping of the 60s/70s bands we love, or whatever - but at least it's better than hearing some white teenage girl sing like a black woman.

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Didn't Chuck Berry write most of his own songs though? I can think of a lot of examples of guys who at least co-wrote a bunch of their hits, pre-Beatles.
Lots of all sorts of artists wrote their own material pre-Beatles. Frankly if you look closely at any genre, this argument hardly holds up. Country artists, just the same as rock artists, in the early days did both. They wrote their own material and they took songs from professional writers.

 

It just so happens that writing original material appears to be more of a priority for rock artists these days (which is a mixed bag) and lots of country artists tend to fall back on song pluggers now (though lots of them write their own material.) While most people are down on contemporary country for all the right reasons, in fact contemporary country songwriters are in some ways far better than many singersongwriters. String me up if you want, but lots of rock songs don't make sense, but most country songs still try and tell a story or communicate an idea clearly. The actual performance of the songs or the message in the songs isn't what many of us want to hear, but country artists still know what makes a song work.

 

LouieB

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String me up if you want, but lots of rock songs don't make sense, but most country songs still try and tell a story or communicate an idea clearly. The actual performance of the songs or the message in the songs isn't what many of us want to hear, but country artists still know what makes a song work.

 

LouieB

This may be getting into dangerous territory,but I would guess that a main reason most country songs are more 'literal' is so that the 'people' can understand them (or at least relate).

I like the abstract just as much,but how many times (for example) has someone commented during a Dylan song "what in the hell is he talking about?"

The old cliche' also holds true:a well-crafted love song is universal.

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This may be getting into dangerous territory,but I would guess that a main reason most country songs are more 'literal' is so that the 'people' can understand them (or at least relate).

I like the abstract just as much,but how many times (for example) has someone commented during a Dylan song "what in the hell is he talking about?"

The old cliche' also holds true:a well-crafted love song is universal.

Not dangerous at all, because I agree about this. Dylan is clear as a bell compared to what people think a "song" is these days. Simply singing words to music is not a song. I have expressed that here before and I still believe it. There is nothing wrong with the current crop of "strum and mumble" singers, (many of them are some of my favorite contemporary artists) but what they do doesn't really consititute songcraft. As an old Deadhead (it does help to meet people in real life) you know what a song is, it may be Robert Hunter writing lyrics and someone in the band putting a tune to it and the best songs are memorable as hell and you can't get them out of your head (dead or otherwise...Box of Rain for example...)

 

While contemporary country is a dreadful mess based on the arrangements and the unreal bullshit that the performers are projecting, it isn't the songwriters that are necessarily to blame. Do I prefer strum and mumble to contemporary country?? Yea I do think that Califone, Calexico, (and a whole ton of other artists) are far superior to most Nashvegas acts, but ask me to sing one of their songs and I am at a total loss.

 

Some years ago I had an argument with someone here (who has long since stopped posting I bet) about what a good song is and I sited two of my favorites. Of course the person I was talking to was too young to have ever heard City of New Orleans or Gentle on my Mind, but those are two good examples of songs that to me have stood the test of time (if you know them), while many indie songwriters aren't engaged in this kind of songwriting at all.

 

LouieB

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I'm glad you mention City of New Orleans..folks like Steve Goodman and John Prine are few and far between.After hearing JT solo shows,it seems obvious to me that Jeff is a direct descendent of JP.Maybe it's just the water in Chicago. :D

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I'm willing to give the Beatles a lot of credit for popularizing the idea that artists can/should write their own songs -- they certainly managed to convince their record company of that, and the Stones and Kinks and others soon followed suit -- but I can't believe this thread has gotten this far without anyone mentioning the late, great Charles Hardin Holley.

 

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