Country Rock in the 1970s

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Country rock produced many artists in the 1970s having first appeared on the music scene in the late 1960. It is a mixture of country and rock music and most bands hailed from the United States, which was really the home for country music. Bob Dylan was one of the most prominent first country rock musicians. In the 1960s his music was seen as a voice of a generation as his records became anthems for the Anti-War Lobby and the Civil Rights Movements. As his career progressed he moved away from being a folk and protest singer to producing lighter country rock performances.

Bob Dylan pictured on his Nashville Album

Dylan spent time in the early 1970s recording music in Nashville which was the home of country music. The style of his new records increasingly started to reflect country rock more. Just his presence in Nashville encouraged young rock musicians that it was perfectly acceptable to mix country with rock. The Californian band the Doobie Brothers were instrumental in pushing the music genre forward. Their self-titled debut album in 1971 reflected the country influences that lead singer Tom Johnston encouraged. The hit singles “Long Train Runnin”, “Listen to the Music” and “Jesus is Just Alright” went on to become country rock anthems. Up to 1975 and the departure of Johnson the group were major influences in the growing popularity of country rock. After this time new lead singer Michael McDonald joined and took the band more towards soul music.

Emmylou Harris was known as the “Queen of Country Rock”. Starting off as a backing singer for Gram Parsons she later went on to sing with Bob Dylan, John Denver and Linda Ronstadt. As a solo artist she released many successful country rock singles and albums that earned her 13 Grammy awards.

The Eagles

The Eagles were formed in 1971 when former members of Linda Rondstadt’s band decided to form their own group. They achieved virtual instant success with their debut album “Eagles” yielding three top 40 singles. The producer of the album Glyn Johns has been crediting with pushing the groups musical style towards country rock. Great success followed for the band with huge hits released in the shape of “Desperado” and “Hotel California”. No band created a more country rock sound than the Eagles, and their consequent successes help to elevate country rock into being at the forefront of the 1970s music scene.

The music was so popular that as well as producing many musical acts its influence could also be seen in the music of other groups that were associated with other musical genres. The Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones were two groups whose recordings were influenced by country rock.

The Rolling Stone 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” was hugely influenced by country music and the single “Wild Horses” is as close to country rock as any record. Mick Jagger sings “Dead Flowers” in his best southern accent while in the back ground a honky-tonk piano and a slippery sliding guitar play. The period of the 1970s was a time when country rock acts were regular achieving chart success. When its influence eventually waned, it had left behind a legacy that would be heard in songs that were produced in future years.