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Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: Country Classics Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2021

Performers

I have watched a full-length concert from the VH1 Storytellers series online, which is performed by Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson (“Country Classics Story tellers(johnny cash & willie nelson)”). These two artists are among the most influential country singers and the most famous and prominent musical performers. Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson are successful solo artists, who teamed up to perform this concert. Johnny Cash is probably the first name that comes to mind when country music is mentioned. He started recording and playing music in the 50s, and by the time of his passing in 2003, he became a musical legend of the American culture (Emond 94). Also, his music is employed as a therapeutic tool for aging patients (Alonzo 83). Willie Nelson, “being a country icon,” is also one of the most prominent musicians in this genre (Neill 403; Pálmason et al. 10). He was not getting the deserved recognition of his work, but later he became acknowledged by other country artists as well as the music industry as a whole.

Description of the Music Genre

Country, alongside blues, is one of the oldest genres of American music culture. This genre is strongly associated with American heritage and the history of the United States. It is apparent that the country primarily expresses the sentiments of ordinary people, workers, and farmers. Therefore, this music is characterized by the simplicity of songwriting harmonies, relying on simple melodies and motifs. Regarding the structure, the country uses significantly repetitive song patterns, manifesting itself both in lyrics and chord progressions. It is also worth mentioning that the primary emphasis is put on the storytelling aspect, and thus complex structures are not used.

Style and Other Characteristics

Both Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson were able to include the stylistic influences from other musical styles, which were prominent in the most creatively productive period of both musicians’ careers (from the 50s to 70s). For example, Johnny Cash incorporated the elements of blues and rockabilly into his music, while Willie Nelson was also impacted by rockabilly as well as rock-n-roll. This blend of somewhat adjacent, yet different musical styles contributed to the creation of the musicians’ unique sound. The performed songs are written in a mid-paced tempo, with little changes in dynamics throughout the song. Concerning the instruments and sound textures, the tunes are played on two acoustic guitars, which is the fundamental form of performing country music. Thus, the songs have a very distinct and natural brightness of sound texture. Concerning the repertoire, it should be noted that the artists primarily perform their well-known hits, such as Ring of Fire by Cash and Crazy by Nelson.

Live Interpretation of the Original Songs

The concerts are the opportunity for a musician to implement new ideas and try out new approaches to performing. However, live performances could also be treated as a form of communication with his audience. In my opinion, the concert under discussion is an example of the latter type of performance. Along with performing the songs themselves, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson actively communicate with people in the concert hall. They tell stories about how their songs were written, and occasionally they trade jokes. It should be mentioned that in some moments the vocals are a little off, sometimes the backing vocals and accompaniment does not match perfectly the tempo of the leading artist’s performance. However, these shortcomings do not spoil the impression of the concert; on the contrary, they serve as the representation of specific raw energy and aesthetics, which one expects to hear on a country tune.

Personal Opinion on the Performance

In my opinion, the most exciting aspect of the concert under consideration is the intimate atmosphere of the performance. I very much enjoyed the fact that the artists were surrounded by the audience. It created a certain level of intimacy because the performers were significantly private to the audience. On a larger scale (at least for me), this performance resembled the old days when country music was born. People used to gather around after a long day, and they sat and listened to these songs. Of course, it is just an impression, and it is evident that Cash and Nelson were not trying to stylize their performance this way. However, this resemblance with the earlier periods of American history was the most exciting aspect of the concert. Also, it is worth mentioning that both Cash and Nelson possess a unique personality and charisma, and thus it was enjoyable to watch how they express themselves.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is essential to observe that this concert, in my opinion, is an excellent example of artists performing their songs and communicating with the audience at an equally good level. I would recommend this concert for a vast audience, since the topics, which were explored by Cash and Nelson in their songs (for example, love as well as the perception of masculinity), are relatable for many people (Cheryan 1).

Works Cited

Alonzo, Tena. “Hope for Persons with Dementia.” Generations, vol. 41, no. 1, 2018, pp. 81-85.

Cheryan, Sapna, et al. “Manning Up.” Social Psychology, vol. 46, no. 4, 2015, pp. 218-227, Web.

“Country Classics Story tellers(johnny cash & willie nelson).” YouTube, uploaded by Randy Nannie. 2017, Web.

Emond, Jeffrey D. “In Defense of Johnny Cash in the American Literary Canon.” 23rd Annual Clement S. Stacy Memorial Undergraduate Research Conference Proceedings, 2015, pp. 92-100.

Neill, Ushma S. “A Conversation with Eric Olson.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 127, no. 2, 2017, pp. 403-404.

Pálmason, Haukur, et al. “Music Genre Classification Revisited: An In-Depth Examination Guided by Music Experts.” 13th International Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research (CMMR), Matosinhos, Porto, 25-28 Sep. 2017, pp. 1-12, Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, May 28). Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: Country Classics. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/johnny-cash-and-willie-nelson-country-classics/

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"Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: Country Classics." IvyPanda, 28 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/johnny-cash-and-willie-nelson-country-classics/.

1. IvyPanda. "Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: Country Classics." May 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/johnny-cash-and-willie-nelson-country-classics/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. "Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: Country Classics." May 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/johnny-cash-and-willie-nelson-country-classics/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: Country Classics'. 28 May.

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