“Country Music” — an epic film about a true American art form and women’s role in the industry, from the great Ken Burns — begins tonight at 8 ET on PBS and streaming.
What we know: The film features 3,200 photographs and interviews with more than 100 people, including 40 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
20 of those interviewed have since passed on.Women’s history with country music is emphasized in the series, highlighting trailblazers like Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline.”Country Music,” split into 8 episodes totaling 16½ hours, features more than 2 hours of original archival footage, including never-aired photos and footage of Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash and others.
In an interview with “PBS NewsHour,” Burns talked about the film’s emphasis on women:
[W]omen are central to this story in a way they aren’t in jazz or other forms, which are fraternities. … When you get through Patsy [Cline] to Loretta [Lynn], we’re in the mid-’60s. Nobody in rock ‘n’ roll is singing, “Don’t come home a drinking with loving on your mind.” Think about what we’re talking about — spousal abuse, spousal rape, a woman’s right to her own body, even in marriage, women’s rights in general. Now, this is the same year that the National Organization for Women is founded . … For me, all of these things, race or creativity or commerce or women, are all trumped by how powerful this music is. … I mean, when Hank Williams says, “I’m so lonesome, I could cry,” there’s nobody that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “The silence of a falling star lights up a purple sky, and as I wonder where you are, I’m so lonesome, I could cry.”
Share your #FavoriteCountrySong: A social campaign kicked off with videos from famous artists sharing theirs.After tonight, the film continues at 8 ET each night through Wednesday, then the same 4 nights next week.Johnny Cash at home in California in 1960. Photo: Sony Music Archives via PBS