This was written by Willie Nelson. He was a struggling country singer at the time and got a big break when Cline recorded this and made it a hit. It has become one of Nelson's most enduring songs. He covered the song for his own debut album.
2. Folsom Prison Blues
One of his earliest songs, Cash first recorded this for Sun Records in 1956, but it was the thrilling, electric version recorded live at Folsom Prison in California on January 13, 1968 that came to define his outlaw persona. The Live From Folsom Prison album helped revitalize his career - his last Country chart-topper and Top 40 Hot 100 entry was "Understand Your Man" in 1964. "Folsom Prison Blues" was a #1 Country hit for four weeks and generated a great deal of interest in the rebellious Johnny Cash, who made prison reform his political cause of choice and started regularly performing in jails, doing about 12 shows a year - for free - mostly in Folsom and San Quentin. Said Cash: "I don't see anything good come out of prison. You put them in like animals and tear out the souls and guts of them, and let them out worse than they went in."
3. Me and Bobby McGee
This was written by Kris Kristofferson, who has written hundreds of songs for a wide variety of artists. Kristofferson would become a successful solo artist and appear in several movies, but it was Janis Joplin's hit cover of this song that brought his career to the next level. "'Bobby McGee' was the song that made the difference for me," he told Performing Songwriter in 2015. "Every time I sing it, I still think of Janis."
4. Rhinestone Cowboy
This was written and originally recorded by Larry Weiss, a Brooklyn songwriter whose credits include "Bend Me, Shape Me" by The American Breed, "Help Me Girl" by The Animals and The Outsiders (both with Scott English). Campbell was on tour in Australia when he first heard the song. He bought a cassette copy and listened to it over an over. When he returned to America, he told Al Khoury, an A&R man, at his record label, that he found a perfect song to record. Khoury replied that he also had a great song for Campbell - it was "Rhinestone Cowboy." Campbell took this bit of serendipity as a sign that he was destined to record it. The tune ended up becoming Campbell's signature song and a centerpiece of his live shows.
5. Rocky Mountain High
Denver started writing this song during the Perseid Meteor Shower which happens every August. He was camping with friends at the tree line at Williams Lake near Windstar (his foundation in Colorado) and all of a sudden there were many shooting stars and he noticed "The shadow from the starlight"... thus the line from the song. He says that while the inspiration struck quickly, it took him about 9 months to complete the song.
6. Stand by Your Man
Tammy Wynette wrote this with Billy Sherrill. Sherrill was a producer, songwriter and record executive who signed Wynette to Epic Records after other labels rejected her. He was known for his elegant and meticulous production style (often adding strings to the mix), which was unusual in the world of Country music.
Wynette said that she wrote the song in 15 minutes and spent a lifetime defending it. She insisted that she had no political motive, and that it was "just a pretty love song."
7. City Of New Orleans
Arlo Guthrie is a prolific songwriter (and the son of maybe the more prolific songwriters), but he didn't write this one. "City Of New Orleans" was composed by the Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Goodman in 1970.
Goodman wrote the lyrics on a sketch pad after his wife fell asleep on the Illinois Central train, where they were going to visit his wife's grandmother. Goodman wrote about what he saw looking out the windows of the train and playing cards in the club car. Everything in the song actually happened on the ride.
After he returned home, Goodman heard that the train was scheduled to be decommissioned due to lack of passengers. He was encouraged to use this song to save the train, so he retouched the lyrics and released it on his first album in 1971.
8. Will the circle be unbroken
Sometimes titled "Can The Circle Be Unbroken," this song is based on a gospel hymn published in 1908 with words by Ada Habershon and music by Charles Gabriel - both very prolific writers of church music. This hymn was reworked by the Carter Family and released in 1935." Part country song, part spiritual, it describes a funeral. We see the hearse come to take the singer's mother away, and the slow procession to the grave site. Returning home, he feels a profound loss as he grieves with his siblings. Comfort comes from knowing she is with the Lord.
9. Mammas don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys
"Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" is a country music song first recorded by Ed Bruce, written by him and wife Patsy Bruce. His version of the song appears on his 1976 self-titled album for United Artists Records. In late 1975–early 1976, Bruce's rendition of the song went to number 15 on the Hot Country Singles charts. This song was featured on Chris LeDoux's 1976 album, Songbook of the American West, and in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game soundtrack, on the fictitious radio station K-Rose. Members of the Western Writers of America chose the song as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time
10. Your cheatin' heart
"Your Cheatin' Heart" is a song written and recorded by country music singer-songwriter Hank Williams in 1952, regarded as one of country's most important standards. Country music historian Colin Escott writes that "the song - for all intents and purposes - defines country music." He was inspired to write the song while driving with his fianceé from Nashville, Tennessee to Shreveport, Louisiana. After describing his first wifeAudrey Sheppard as a "Cheatin' Heart", he dictated in minutes the lyrics to Billie Jean Jones. Produced by Fred Rose, Williams recorded the song on his last session at Castle Records in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 23.
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