Date of Defense
Date of Graduation
Wilson J. Warren
Stanley C. Pelkey, School of Music
The past is often portrayed as tall-tale-like in folk songs and at times, in Country songs, telling stories just on the brink of believability or, just as often, over the brink. American folk songs feature larger-than-life heroes, from Davy Crockett to John Henry to Billy the Kid to Jesse James. By the 1920s, Southern folk songs had become part of commercial Country music, and event songs became a popular trend, telling stories of recent events in a similar way to the yellow journalism of that period. Within Country music in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, there occurred a trend of songs featuring events and individuals from American history, within a larger trend within Country music called saga songs. This trend of US historical event songs began as a result of several post-World War II trends, including the nationalization of Country music and the folk revival. These songs portray historical American figures and events, including the Battle of New Orleans, George Armstrong Custer, John Paul Jones, Abraham Lincoln, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Sequoya, in a mythic and legendary way, in imitation of American folksongs and in a similar way to other media during this period, such as television westerns. Another significant influence was Cold War nationalism, which ended as a trend after the societal changes of the late 1960s, associated with the Vietnam War, and has a direct impact on the US historical event song trend in the way it portrays American history and in the events and individuals chosen by the songwriters.
Johnson, Emilee G., ""It Happened Just That Way": The US Historical Event Song Trend in Country Music" (2012). Honors Theses. 2046.
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