Stars don’t have to be Southern to be country.
Sweet tea, cornbread, dressing, fried chicken and hospitality – these are a few of our favorite things in the South. When we think of Southern, we think of country and when we think of country, we think of music.
Many a Southerner would say that the magic and passion of country music song and word are exclusively Southern possessions. Bless their hearts; they couldn’t be more mistaken. Some of the most talented (and awarded) country music recording artists are “geographically” unexpected to sing the boot scootin’ sound of the South, but they do, and they do it well.
Singer/songwriter/musician Lee Greenwood, a native Californian, exceeded expectations and forever earned his “country card” when he wrote his signature song, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” in the back of a tour bus in 1983. The song reached No. 7 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles Chart in 1984, reached legend status during the Gulf War in 1991-92 and peaked again after the 9/11 attacks.
“U.S.A. is the song I always felt the need to write,” Greenwood said. “I wanted to have something that would unite Americans from coast to coast and to instill pride back in the United States.”
A talent whose soulful voice has been heard on 30 albums, this country music artist put a melodious luster on patriotism and continues to infuse the country music world with a little West Coast hospitality.
Anne Murray was the first female and the first Canadian to be awarded Country Album of the Year for 1983’s “A Little Good News.” Born Morna Anne Murray, she debuted in 1970 by reaching No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts with international hit “Snowbird.” Murray received four Grammys, 24 Junos, three American Music Awards, three Country Music Association Awards and three Canadian Country Music Association Awards. She was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, Juno Hall of Fame, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. She is included on the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars in Nashville and has her very own star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles and on the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto.
With an estimated 54 million records sold, Murray paved the way for modern Canadian singers. Although Murray is recognized as a pop, contemporary and country music artist, she sings like her soul is as Southern as a Mississippi Mud Pie.
Following in the footsteps of Murray, Canadian singer Eilleen Regina Edwards, better known as the “Queen of Country-Pop” Shania Twain, remains the best-selling female country artist of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s certification of her record sales. Among her recognitions are five Grammys, induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and stars on both the Hollywood and Canadian Walks of Fame. Twain’s second album, 1995’s “The Women in Me,” with its mega hit “Any Man of Mine” sold 20 million copies and made Shania a household name. Her third album, “Come on Over,” introduced songs such as “You’re Still the One” and “From this Moment On,” both of which became wedding day favorites, especially for Southern girls. That 1997 album remains the seventh best selling album of all time in any genre, with nearly 18 million sold to date, easily topping country superstars like Garth Brooks
Twain also took a stab at sexism with “Man, I Feel like a Woman.” She remains the only artist in history that has three consecutive Gold Albums, earned following the release of her crossover album “Up.”
Her magnetic voice and empowering anthems, not to mention her drop-dead beauty, certainly gave country music lovers something to talk about. The Canadian’s sassy, sexy demeanor captivated audiences to the tune of 85 million records sold. Southern or not, she’s definitely country.
Artists that have expanded the scope of country music may not all trace their roots to rural Southern soil, but their contributions have been invaluable. There are numerous examples. Few people realize that the late Eddie Rabbitt, who penned many award-winning country hits for others and recorded unforgettable songs of his own, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in New Jersey. New Zealand- born Nashville resident and country star Keith Urban has won multiple awards over the past 15 years, including Grammys, CMAs, AMAs, People’s Choice and more. “The Arizona Cowboy,” entertainer Rex Allen, who went on to become a narrator for Disney and an internationally known spokesman, began as a country singer. Grand Ole’ Opry star Hank Snow’s career spanned six decades with success in both his native Canada and in the U.S. and netted sales of more than 80 million.
The country genre is not the Southern genre. Country is as country does. The proof is the pudding – or in this case, the song. Country music stars come from other than Southern skies, and we are just fine with that.
– story by Sasha Dunavant, Country Reunion Music © 2022