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tv   Washington Journal 09132019  CSPAN  September 13, 2019 9:01am-10:08am EDT

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host: joining us now is documentary filmmaker ken burns, talking about his latest project looking at country music. what convinced you this was a topic worth exploring? guest: we are looking for good stories in american history, ones that are firing on all cylinders and hold of the complicated history of who we are. is filled with extraordinary, great creativity, and engaging almost all of the themes and some themes -- subthemes we have dealt with in the past 40 years in filmmaking. race, gender, commerce, we came off our vietnam series and a series where people die of broken hearts. not by the millions, but of broken hearts.
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that -- there the themes that compromise this fact embrace? how does country music -- fact of race? guest: we do this a disservice. country music comes down to us when we presume something about country music, but the banjo, one of the central instruments with the fiddle, is from africa. the major early stars of country music had african-american tutors or were heavily influenced by african-american music. the music itself over the decades has had very few african-american stars, it has is not an island nation separated by water from everything else. it is connected to jazz and the blues and rhythm and blues. with rhythm and it is the parent of rock 'n roll and is connected to folk, rock and roll, rap and classical.
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you need a that passport or some visa to get between country music and everything else is false. that is an extension of an analogy about us, both us, the two letter plural pronoun, but also the u.s.. we can convince ourselves we are one thing whereas, in every manifestation i have found over 40 years of investigation, we are many things. we are an alloy, stronger for the mixture of elements. if anyone is telling you that you can pull out one of those, one of those elements from that make, all you have done is it weaker. one of the things we celebrate in our film is us and the u.s., without being sugarcoated, without being a sanitized, madison avenue version of our history, something that is deeply, deeply complicated. the undertow of country music is important to acknowledge. at the same time, it is important to celebrate this
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extraordinary american art form. in the art that has come out of the people who have made this country, the working class, the working poor, the people who struggle. these songs, the music they created represents that struggle. anding with love and loss the difficulty of life. there is no one in the sound of my voice that has not experienced the kind of notions that country music experiences. we can say it is about pickup trucks, hound dogs, good old boys and six packs of beer, and there is a good and honorable part that is part of that, but it is mostly about love and loss , and it speaks to the human condition. none of us are getting out of this alive. and if you have a good country song like "i'm so lonesome i could cry," it sounds sad, it is sad, but it helps connect to other people. i found this one of the most satisfying productions we have ever been involved with. host: ken burns is with us until
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10:00 if you want to ask him questions. give him a call at (202) 748-8000 for those in the central and eastern time zones. (202) 748-8001 for the mountain and pacific time zones. one of the country stars you have is merle haggard. you talked about him growing up poor, how it affected him. we will talk about that after we see it. [video clip] >> when merle haggard was born his family had been living near bakersfield, california for three years. ater fleeing oklahoma after fire destroyed their farm during the depression, they were still look down on -- looked down on as okies. ♪ workrd's father had found on the railroad, but they needed a permanent place to live. >> there was a lady named miss lot with thed the
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boxcars, the refrigerator car. if you ever want to be a hard enough worker, you could make this into a pretty nice home. but i never heard with okies it would work. my dad said to her ma'am, i do not know of one that wouldn't work. host: talk only not about what he is talking about, but the larger issues when it comes to economic disparity. guest: yes. correctly, quite exalt the idea of a level playing field in the united states. but rarely is the field ever level. what merle experiences is what other people who are discriminated against, the okies fled the dust bowl in the depression and moved to
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california, and you can have those presumed prejudices. , all of thehat traumas of discrimination, are a go to great art. what you have in the case of merle haggard, who is often referred to as the poet of the ,ommon man, that he was able to after an early stint in jail in san quentin and and adolescents filled with a lot of juvenile delinquency and breaking out of juvenile homes 17 times, he suddenly straightened up and decided to express all of that in his art. harris said emmylou if you want to understand country music, get a merle merled record, any haggard record, and put it on any cuts. you will begin at the beginning. what merle is doing is giving voice to the experiences of loss -- the death of his father, his father's experience and his
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experience in the central valley of a displaced person -- getting yourself out of poverty, overcoming discrimination. a long time, this music was called hillbilly music, which is in and of itself derogatory. these people in overalls who are nasal and had a twang, when in fact it is as high an artform as jazz, rhythm and blues, or the blues. host: is there a song that best illustrates that? le, it is soer interesting. we visited that railroad car turned into a tiny home and imagining merle grew up there. we were fortunate enough to interview him. my producing partner did that interview before he died, and he passed away. --has mom is hungry eyes, eyes," "mamay
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tried," so many. he said himself that his discrimination must be similar to what the blacks experienced. there is a solidarity in art amongst those who suffered those things, and we can learn a lot from those who do the hard work of this country. country music is an expression of their hard work and the frustration with the fact that it is not a level playing field, no matter what the people at the top say, oh, we are for you, and turnaround and do something for themselves. host: a viewer can put that into contrast. where do bluegrass and appalachian fiddle tunes fitting into the project? do you play any instruments? with: i play the comb someone waxed paper, i can play a kazoo, but i know what i like. this is the art of the invisible. this is the fastest artform there is. my brother, who is also a
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documentary filmmaker, in the editing room we always use musical analogies to talk about how to edit the pace, hold out another beat. he said when films dies and goes to heaven, it becomes music. i think at the heart of our attention to it and our love of it is power. hearts directly into our and captures us. the string bands that run up and down appalachia to contribute to the beginnings of country music and it inspires one string band member, joe monroe, to create a hyper musical version, the way bebop exists within jazz, as a fast paced alternative to what had been done. bluegrass is music within a music that we deal with in almost every episodes. joe monroe comes on the scene in episode two, lou grass is codified in episode three, but
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for us -- bluegrass is codified in episode three, but for us it is there until the end. host: ken burns discussing his new documentary. (202) 748-8000 for the eastern and central time zones. (202) 748-8001 for the mountain and pacific time zones. there is a man named d4 bailey -- deford bailey that you highlight. guest: he was a gifted harmonica player, one of the most popular if not the most popular person on the grand ole opry. said,ener wrote in and please warn us when you do the fox hunt, which was a favorite one of his, when he imitated the hounds and the foxes, the bugle calls and doll of that. without the warning, my labrador -- and all of that. without warning, my labrador knocked over two lamps and a table when responding to the
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radio. he was terrific. he had trouble traveling between the gigs. the grand ole opry was sunday night and musicians got better paying gigs around that area, which is why nashville is central, and he had a hard time. people took care of him there. of course, as our partisanship waxes and wanes, at a particularly disappointing period he was let go from the aand ole opry and made triumphant return. he had to open up a shoeshine business in nashville and came back. it speaks to the specifics of the situation, that he could be accepted and could be understood to be a great country artist, and also the sometimes the harsh realities of american life, when we don't live up to our promise. i thinkare looking for art films that give us ourselves in a different way. it is not just the binary aspects of political debate, for example.
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is something that transcends that. i think art does that. with marcel says in this film, art tells the tale of us coming together. how to reconcile those differences. i am for this, i am against this is not very satisfying for people who have to put food on the table or people who have to pay that hospital bill, people who are looking for a job or people who want that playing field to be level. i think the music of country music addresses all of that. caller from west virginia, calling in for ken burns. caller: yes, i had some comments about the merle haggard music. i am a country music fan and i have been for years. however, the way that country has changed and all these old artists have passed away, i think that is changing country music as well, so it is not as country anymore. "proud to be had
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an ok from muskogee." he also had "only me and amn."led soldiers give a dman these people were very, very patriotic and i think we have lost that, and i think we have lost that in country music. guest: i want to do -- to respectfully disagree. i think it is still there. the songs merle had did not speak to the left or the right, the red state or the state, but what we shared in common. and i neglected to say "today i started loving you again," which s haveand 500 other artist played that song. it is a beautiful love song. things go in waves. country music is always changing. that is the nature of art, to be restless and the new boundaries.
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country musicme, is always revered as history. there was not an artist we interviewed that was not extremely aware of what had taken place in the past. our films are normally filled with historians and critics commenting. we only have one historian out of 101 interviews we did. we did not need them. we found the musicians himself like marty stuart and rosanne cash, the daughter of johnny the old crow medicine show, or rhiannon , new as much about the foundational days as anybody we met. le could come in and comment on jimmie rodgers, we were off and running. i find that quite often, different periods of time have tried to use country artists. others have used them to score a political point. i do not think we prove our patriotism with that and there are a lot of country artist
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today that are singing patriotic songs and doing that. many people feel that woody guthrie, who is often denigrated as being left-wing, is as much a country artist as anything. in fact, he takes an old carter song, keeps the melody, ditches the lyrics, and writes a song called "this land is your land." that song with the carter family had begun in the african-american church with the kind of gospel style called "when the world is on fire. america is always a mixture. u.s., butke about the also us, the lowercase plural pronoun, what i discovered in the course of 40 years of working, there is only us. there is no them. the problem is, and you can see it in the debates and our superficial political life, we make opposites when we, as human beings, share 99.99% of the same
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things, feel the same things, have the same desires for our children, grandchildren, communities and posterity. i think what i have tried to do in all of my films is the about nots be about unum and about pluribus. host: our next caller, good morning. caller: there is something i would like to touch on with ken burns. someone byemembers the name of jack connolly. song, making it hard on the working man. i am sure he remembers that song and how truthful that will be all the way back. it relates to all the people, their voice, their spirits, the , andand the storyteller all of them that have a real serious sportsmanship for our
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humanity. a really, really good point, dave. i cannot wait for you to see the series. it starts on sunday on pbs and runs for four nights, and picks up the following sunday for four more nights. eight episodes, 16 hours. i think you will find america has always had a promise, and we have not always lived up to that promise. country music is there to remind us about the universal human birth,the joy of sadness, death, a broken heart, anger, jealousy, rage, all of these kinds of things. getting right with god, seeking redemption -- the themes that preoccupy all of us. charlie pride says in the introduction to our film, there is a country song to fit any mood you are in. it might make you cry, but you will feel better for crying. that expression i mentioned earlier, hank wilson's "i'm so lonesome i could cry," speaks to any human with a heart beating
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in their breast. they know what we are talking about. host: [inaudible] guest: howard harlin is a songwriter, and he referred to country music as three quarts and the truth. i think it correctly suggests that this music does not have the sophistication and complication of classical music or some forms of jazz, but that other part, the truth. lyric drivenic, a music in which you are able to hear the words. it is a big deal in music. you can hear the words and the music is simple enough that melodic enough that it grabs you in one hand and on the other hand is poetry, this distillation of language into its purest form. together, that creates a delivery vehicle that goes straight to your heart. our head is preoccupied with the binary. yes, no, red states, blue state.
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democrat number, republican number, independence number. what we share in common is much more important than that. i think harlan howard was getting at the fact that you have an opportunity with that truth aspect to overcome whatever simplicity -- in fact, the simplicity might be an aid to us receiving it altogether. the last verse of the hack rains stone i have been talking about, the silence of a fallen star lights up a purple sky. and as i wonder where you are, i'm so lonesome i could cry. like a haiku, but if he ended the day, nobody doesn't know what he is talking about. host: up next for ken burns, los angeles, california. jen, go ahead. caller: hi, a friend and i are really upset about the inclusion or trying to make the point that country music is so inclusive. i don't think that appropriating
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nannyjo and having a black are good test of occasions for saying that black people -- are a good testification for saying that black people are included in that. i went to a concert and i happened to be walking past the backstage area. there was a blues musician on. i heard one of them say, i hope gets off the stage pretty quickly, because we are ready to go on. i would like to offer an alternative music. kind of music that did bring together black people and white people, and it is called motown. host: all right, we will get a comment. guest: it is a very important comments, and i and our film do not mean to suggest that country music is immune to the kind of indignities that have been
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visited upon african-americans or minorities in general, poor people in general. the music is. i am saying the foundation of this music is not appropriation, but what is the american genius, which is mixture. runs both ways. african americans were listening to country music and country music stars were listening to r&b stations. you would not have rock and roll if johnny cash and if most importantly elvis presley had not been steeped in both the gospel and so-called hillbilly music, and rhythm and blues. thereo way street is -- is another great example and perhaps the best example is that in 1960 two, when ray charles was given creative control of an album for the very first time, he chose to make an album called "modern sounds in country and western music." number one hit in 1962 was ray charles singing "i can't
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stop loving you." if you listen to that on the internet, it is a country song. things. the same you take black music, you take white music, they are the same things. i think in our divided, polarized, binary world, we can only see the borrowing of stuff for the mixture of stuff as appropriation. but i think in the generous spirit in which we tried to make this film, it does not become appropriation, it becomes the sharing of things. just like an alloy, it is stronger by the mixture of metals, you have in country music, in particular in american music in general, and that would include motown, r&b, it includes the blues and jazz and pop and rock and folk. you have much stronger and elemental americanness. it isnot american unless
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a mixture of something. unless you have native american music. and then you have so many different native american cultures in the united states, they are sharing and intermingling their cultures. i do not think there is anything under the sun that is not a combination of things. host: from nashville, tennessee, jane. good morning. caller: good morning. i wanted to know if you considered the music of blind , whoed read -- of reed recorded at the crystal sessions. his grandson lives in nashville and has his fiddle. he was a protest writer before there were protest writers. guest: we have a protest period, and we think we invented protests during that period, but human beings have been protesting in songs for as long as there have been human beings and songs. i do not know if that gentleman with the wii -- the most
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important things that came out of the bristol sessions was when a man went to bristol, tennessee and recorded on succeeding sessions the carter family from mason springs, virginia, not too far away, and jimmy rogers, from mississippi. they had both been influenced by african-americans. carter familythe taking "when the world is on fire. they collected songs throughout appalachia from different colors and mixed it together to create success. jimmy rogers had been steeped in the blues from black railroad crews he had seen on the railroad and other places. people consider it the big bang of country music. it you listen to it, the carter family sounds nothing like jimmy rogers. aen with him, jimmy rogers is mixture of things, as is the carter family a mixture of things. country music starts off not
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being one thing, but many different things, at least two baked kind of styles -- two big kinds of styles, then they pick up cowboy songs, westville swing, the nashville sound and all the various string sounds of appalachia we have been talking about, including bluegrass and the bakersfield sound -- all sorts of sounds good mixed together over the next several decades our series covers. host: how did johnny cash change country music? guest: johnny cash comes in like elvis presley when rockabilly, a precursor to rock 'n roll, happens. rhythm andh rhythm blues, hillbilly music. something else comes of it, a hybrid. it is also makes particularly in the case of cash and presley with gospel sounds. what you have an american music are various groups that we kind of in present -- kind of
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imprisoned by saying oh, it is this, the category, forgetting it is one big, broad category where the artist travel freely between them. brenda lee says in our film, when i recorded, they said it was rockabilly. then they said it was full and it was country, and she is singing the songs she wants to sing. the no labels movement in politics is an attempt to say you know what? tweedledee, tweedledum, red state, blue state, it does not support it. the binary solution is never going to work, to say that i am right and you are wrong. it does not work. host: a highlight in your series is johnny cash's performances at prison. let's watch that. [video clip] ♪ on new year's day, 1959, cash performs at a california maximum-security facility at san
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quentin. ♪ was ag in the audience young inmate who had already busted out of juvenile detention centers 17 times. >> johnny cash had blown his voice that i before at a new year's eve party in severance disco, and he had nothing but a whisper. -- in san francisco, and he had nothing but a whisper. but with that whisper, he was subdue theally competition of strippers and everything in an eight hour show. i was worried for him, because men are cruel in san quentin. they don't applaud and less they like you. but they were crazy about him. ♪ he identified with us and he is
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the kind of guy who might have been in there with us if things had gone the wrong way for him. >> merle haggard decided if he ever got out of prison, he would try to follow in johnny cash's footsteps. [cheering] host: why was johnny cash so interested in performing in prisons? is a: johnny cash patriarch of country music, but he is a polymath. he is interested in everything. he is interested in native americans and the plight of native americans, and issued that concept album before it was a thing. he is interested in prisoners, the dispossessed of the world. he was always interested in every kind of music and promised his mama after the death of his brother that he would become a preacher, but he didn't. he always put a gospel song into every show. when he had a nationally syndicated -- nationally
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broadcast television show in the 1960's, he played a gospel song against the wishes of the network executives in every show, but he brought on people like odetta, james taylor, and louis armstrong. he knew more songs than anyone i ever knew. at one point he turned to his daughter roseann, who was beginning a career, and asked, do you know this song? she said no, and he got worried and said, you need to know it. he wrote down a list of songs that were critical that she needed to know. it is interesting that she has carried forward the tradition of forward the tradition of a generous, wide embrace of so many different styles in american music. host: and he testified in front of the senate on the part of prison reform. the streets should be a safe place for a wife and children to walk down. men needhis to happen,
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to be treated as human beings. if not, when they are turned into the streets, they will not act like human beings. was he political about this? guest: roseann says he could carry two equal opposing beliefs and care about them equally. so even if he did not care about it in the sense it was oppositional, he knew that prisoners were human beings. our next film which will be broadcast in november, we have been embedded for several years in the bard prison initiative, in maximum and medium security prisons in upstate new york, looking at human beings who, when given a chance to get a degree, a rigorous academic program, the recidivism rate goes from 75% to under 4%. i am about to speak this afternoon with a congressional black caucus about the themes in that film and what is going on. so all of the work we have done has come together and it doesn't
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surprise me that johnny cash is out front in a way that is human, you know? he could be against the war in vietnam and visit the troops in vietnam. that's johnny cash, and that is what i was trying to say this morning. i think we have an obligation to be -- it is so easy just to make the other wrong. i think he strove really hard to understand the other and realize, as i have been saying, that there is only us, know them. them.only us, no host: and you showed this film to the prisoners at san quentin. guest: they were so enthusiastic about it. we met an inmate who had been in prison with merle haggard. got out more or less at the same time. merle stayed out, he did something to get him sent back for more or less the rest of his life. he had tears in his eyes. we not only showed johnny cash's
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experience in prison, but merle haggard's. i think merle might be the case for the possibility of redemption. cord to bowl juvenile delinquents, as you heard me and the film say, broke out of juvenile detention centers 17 times and is sentenced to 15 years in san quentin and wants to escape, and will participate in an escape. the guy organizes it and for a while it is successful, but then says no, no, no. guitar, -- youhe can write songs, play the guitar. he turns himself completely around and turns into the poet of the common man. it reminds us and reminded me when we were there that each one of those human beings there in uniform has there, but for the grace of god go i.
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toy have the same claims humanity as i do. have they made mistakes? yes. ?re we punishing them yes. then we have to decide the purpose of punishment. is it does punishment, or do we buy them with the tools to not just come back and be career criminals, but come back and be something more. host: bakersfield, california. fred, waits for -- thanks for waiting. go ahead. caller: i am calling from bakersfield and i had a quick question. "theu have the song streets of bakersfield" as part of your documentary? guest: we do indeed, and we have a couple of times. know, ifusic as you you are in bakersfield, is a big family. about theery much brothers and rose, and we had an opportunity to interview white rose -- dwight yocum, who was .ery close to the rose
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and if you accept my premise this morning, there is no other, there is only us, i think the streets of bakersfield is great. it opens up the whole you don't know me, but you don't like me. countrye of the great songs of all-time and it speaks to exactly what we have been speaking about. host: alexandria, virginia. george, good morning. caller: hello, mr. burns. today is my 39 birthday and i have finally decided to listen to merle haggard as the start of my day. i'm intereste if you know oraling aboutd the fact -- haggard was a big fan of hillary clinton, and i am curious about why, if you have any thoughts that the campaign did not seem to embrace him the way they
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embraced some of the more urban population that would be her, what we kind of stereotype as her fans, and what you think of divides that might even be unnatural regarding urban country fans and democrats, and this cultural divide that seems to have become a cultural and political divide that shouldn't intermingle. -- that should intermingle. guest: you write, they should intermingle. we know those stories, so we go up to the late 1990's with the height of garth brooks' popu larity, the height of bill monroe, and the subsequent death of johnny cash. be enoughrd will not to be an active campaigner. happy --n, i really
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and happy birthday -- that you wake up and wants to hear merle haggard. i cannot think of a better present to celebrate your birthday. mistakeink we make a when we try to say there is a difference between rural and urban. there are lots of country fans in new york city. one of the most popular radio stations in new york city is a country thing. for as long as country music has been broadcast to the country, there are country music fans in the city. when we talk about country music, we talk about nashville, which is a big city. bakersfield, a big city. texas towns that are big cities. rural,ot this purely southern manifestation. i think when we get away from on theivide, then we are road to just permitting the purity of a great merle haggard song to reach you on your birthday. host: a viewer on twitter brings
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up the issue of -- i am saying this wrong, maybe, but lil nas x? guest: america has a race problem. i will not say country music is alone in having a race problem. america has a race problem. let's be super honest about that. to me, the story of lil nas x, who wrote "old town road," the number one single. because he is a rapper, billboard country charts, as he was rising up, is excluding him. he is now transcending that. the most popular song of all time. ,t is a country song by a black gay rapper. this shows that we can spend time getting stuck in the binary combat of why did billboards do this or didn't do this when in fact, humans of all colors have voted with their pocketbook and and itasm for this song,
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begins to tell you that there are no borders. the more borders we put up, the more restricted we become, the more binary we become. x proves the point we are making in every episode of this series. we do not go up to the present, so we do not include his interesting and fascinating story, but the bible, ecclesiastes, says there is nothing new under the sun. human nature does not change. mark twain said history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. film,e are done with the we are astounded how our films rhyme in the present, whether it is the vietnam war, prohibition, or country music. and we have not talked about how much of a woman's story this is. the original woman's instrumental lead guitarist is a woman. mother mabel of the carter family. strong women populate every decade and every episode of our series.
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now you have a complaint that the great women artists are being kept off of country music radio play, which is now a male bastion. no one who watches our series will think that we finished etoo movement began. but these themes we think are brand-new to us have been around for as long as there have been, unfortunately, men and women. host: a viewer off of twitter to that point at this. first of all, she is waiting for you to mention the wall of ash cannibal, but she wants to know if you interviewed loretta lynn? guest: we did interview loretta lynn. this great song in the 60's, "don't come in a-drinkin with lovin on your mind." calling herself a feminist and neither will her
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growing legion of fans, but they identify with the themes that are very topical today. -- the song is about spousal rape, spousal abuse, a woman's right to her own body. enough, andaying i am notws it with going to make a baby for you every year while you are off having fun. it was scandalous and in some circles it was banned, which .ade it more popular loretta lynn is a fantastic part of our film and we have a lot of people that address that. host: we will watch a bit of that, how she and her husband promoted her record. [video clip] >> to promote her record, she and doolittle started sending copies of it, including photographs of loretta dressed in a cowgirl outfit, to disk document station managers around the nation. off toy 1960, they set do it in person, going from station to station, sleeping in
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their car, living on baloney and cheese sandwiches. ♪ >> i had [inaudible] it for my 17th birthday. i kept that one dress, and i get into the backseat seat, change into my black and white dress, pull my jeans off and going to the radio station. i would pullack, my dress off, hang it up, and we would go down the road to the next radio station. that was how we did it. "on the honky-tonk girl," hit number 14 on the country charts. they decided to head to nashville. thet: when you asked previous question from twitter, i forgot the question included a --, who is very, very important. the king of country music for a long, long time.
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not producingas hits, he was the center of the grand ole opry and what it meant to be the head of this big family of country music performers and their fans. a central role in several of the episodes. marty is in mississippi, hi. caller: yes, mr. burns, i love all of your films and i enjoy this war and all the thank you have done. i love all kinds of music. in 1994ito mention worked up in virginia and went to a concert that james brown, he was in this concert and he complemented elvis presley. that is almost 20 years after elvis presley is dead, you know? you arei just love what doing and i love this topic here. thank you, marti. what you are speaking to his exactly what the film addresses. if we seek to make the other
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wrong, what we have is appropriation. if we understand that we are all in this together, as someone in our films says, that we are all in this human boat, then james brown and elvis presley are brothers and we are all brothers and sisters. that is the message of the universal themes of country music, what hank williams, the hillbilly shakespeare, perl hacker, the poet of the common man, what loretto, dolly, kris kristofferson, which took him to in hisr level of poetry work, are trying to remind us just how tough it is to get through and how much we need each other to get through. host: and he also mentions his love, jim is saying, for patsy cline. guest: she is not a songwriter, but she invests every song she sings with a kind of intimacy, as tricia yearwood said, as if you are in the room with her.
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when she takes willie nelson's song "crazy," this is the height of singing, it seems to me. this is the number one jukebox tune of all time. more nickels were put on jukebox jukeboxes "crazy -- playing "crazy" than any other tune. there is a tragedy in country music. people do not just die of rogue hearts, there are accidents and things, and we lose jimmy rogers to tuberculosis way, way too young. we lose one of the most prodigious songwriters when he is under 30 years old. is under 30 years old. he dies when he is 29 and his work is so expensive, kris kristofferson says, i wish he had lived longer. so hank williams, and patsy cline dies tragically very, very
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early. ,e do have the things she did "walking after midnight," "crazy" and all the other songs. i remember the country music commercials, and there was a woman's voice selling a compilation thing. the patsy is no longer with us, her music will live or ever. truer words were never spoken. host: and what about jihad? -- hee haw? guest: when folks in nashville got word of hee haw, it was like oh, there we go again. hay bales, girls with their midriffs, overalls, very type of hillbilly. play to that, but it did it in a defiant way. , it set asidely
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time to focus on the music. the old music people might be forgetting in the rush of the new. the new stuff that was important to hear, and people from other genres. kathy mattea tells us she had a grand daddy who would say, i'm looking for you on hee haw. i am just date tour guide at the hall of fame. with she gets on -- when she getson hee haw and she that shout out performance, she made it not just in her granddaddy's eyes, but everyone's eyes. it went on to syndication and was hugely, immensely popular for decades. georgia is next. chris, you are on with ken burns. go ahead. to ask mr., i want burns about a particular star that was one of my favorites back in the late 1940's, early
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1950's. can you tell me about hank snow and what happens to him? guest: hank snow is a really good story. he is in our film, not as much as you would like, but we are not a telephone book so we are making decisions. inappears in a few instances hank hears the music because of the high watt stations in nashville, chicago, and these other places. he is in the maritime provinces and gravitates to nashville and is a huge, huge star. hank snow. in birmingham,e alabama. good morning. susie in birmingham, alabama. hello? caller: [inaudible] host: good morning. caller: good morning. i am 84 years old, and during
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the 1950's, i was a snob on that country music. then my father listened to the grand ole opry or something, then i listened to hank williams, and i love poetry and i thought, this man is a poet. then i started to listening to hankof daddy's favorites, snow, the man before me mention hank snow, and i listen to it now. i don't care much for the modern, so-called modern, but you know, the old ones i love. guest: i love to hear that. that is a wonderful story. it happens a lot of the time, we stesl from our parents' ta and we come back and go somewhere else. rosanne cash talks about, i did not like country music growing
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up. i was into rock 'n roll. as you know, she is a great country singer-songwriter in her own right. that snobbery does not hold up in the face of hank williams and his poetry. you know, the lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds to glue to fly. the midnight train is winding low, i'm so lonesome i could cry. hey good-looking, i got a hot rod, ford, and a two dollar bill, and i know a place right over the hill. this is the joyous poetry of hank williams, who we lost way, way too early. host: saturday night, sunday night when it comes to country music? guest: it is something in all of american music, certainly in jazz, rhythm and blues, and most definitely in country. scamp,e the rope, the the bars and the darkened
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saloons, that is the saturday night tendency. that might be jimmy rogers at the beginning. then you have the folks who are about home and church and mother and family. that is the sunday morning tendency. interesting, we know these are in clashes with one another out in our culture in the music, but very often they are embodied in the same person. hascarter family actually an unbelievable melodrama going on at the same time they seem to be presenting this virtuous image. and jimmy rogers has this incredibly spiritual dimension that transcends the rope and the wink-- the rogue and the he is doing in his playing. we oftenuggles attribute to the other our struggles we have in ourselves. wen we make the other wrong, are often making an aspect of ourselves wrong. i like those people like johnny
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able to contain and understand that we have both these impulses. and we arerous greedy. we have a purity streak and a puritan streak. our we get to that point, politics will con down. know so easy to say you what, you are wrong and i am right, and boom, done. but democracy is always about listening to the other and maybe being persuaded. the best ideas are hybrids of all different points of view, and i think art is about that. marsalis,m, wilton who was in my jazz series from 20 years ago, isn't it -- is in this series because he likes country music so much. it was wonderful. there was no difference between the musicians. he says, we all have an ethnic heritage, but we have a human heritage that is much more important.
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art tells the tale of us coming together. i think that is what we ought to remember, we have an opportunity as i look at the capitol building today to not just be this opposition on something, but to figure out how you might transcend that. kirby in arizona, hi. i grew up in a central illinois and my dad, when i was younger in the 19th excuse, my dad and i listened to country music together. i want to know, what type of country music was it that was in that area? guest: in the area of east illinois? caller: well, it was between indiana and illinois. it was while abashed type music h-type music, ias don't know. guest: regions will gravitate to different things, but the great thing about country music, its formation coincides with the
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birth of radio and the dissemination of all sorts of styles. you listen to the grand ole opry, the longest-running american radio show in american history, you will hear everything from comedy and slapstick to people with drum kits and heavily electrified string band music. what you will be exposed to in eastern and central illinois is what you are exposed to in the maritime provinces of canada, that will learn hank snow snow, or ink california, what pulled buck .wens, or in the deep south people will have a particular affection for anything that has walbash in it if you are from east central illinois. you have so many different styles of country music, i could not even enumerate them in an
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hour. does thisewer ask, include the contributions of kris kristofferson? guest: yeah. he is a rhodes scholar in english literature. he knows the mystical english poet william blake, who basically says -- and he quotes it from memory in our interview with him -- he said if you do not do what you are supposed to do, you will be damned forever. he is a rhodes scholar, he is a commissioned officer in the united states. he can fly a helicopter and wants to go to vietnam. the military recognizes him as an important,. they give him a job at west point, but he does not want that. he wants to write country songs. he gives all of that up to be a janitor at columbia record studios in nashville, pushing a broom and listening in on sessions of johnny cash, then finally writing some songs. the great producer, fred foster, recentlyd away
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that give us a great interview wanthe film, he said, i you to sing a couple of songs. some people can luck out and have one hit, but no one has four songs. when he heard these four songs, he realized. johnny cash and others who supported him to the very end, he helped me and bobby mcgee , sunday those heights morning coming down. he spoke more intimately about relations between men and women than anyone had. he did it with a sophistication that reveals that love of shakespeare and of william blake. it is not the elemental poetry of hank williams or merle haggard, it is something else entirely. i think one of the developments in our film is reaching its height when the many scenes that we have on kris kristofferson play out. host: from new york, this is rory.
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caller: good morning. i am wondering how the growth of theinternet has affected production and dissemination of the music? guest: i think that is a really great question. before, our film stops in the mid to late 1990's and goes on to the death of johnny cash. i am not a great student of it, but i think as we know in almost every aspect of our life, social media has done really positive things and we now know from the last election cycle, some really negative things. i think in the same ways with music, social media and the internet promotes a great kind of familiarity with the music, and yet it also sort of takes us from being one group of people to being our own individual free agents. i think what happens is, one of the complaints women have about country music radio now, it
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seems to be programmed by a computer or a handful of people and what it has done is excluded ,any recent -- in recent years excluded many of the great female singers. i think it is a good and bad, it is a mixture, as almost everything is. chocolate ice cream is delicious to me, but i know if i eat too much of it it is not so good. host: how much data did you take in for this project? how much makes it to the series? make: in new hampshire, we maple syrup. it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, and that is a good analogy for the filmmaking we do. a 40 to one ratio. we collected thousands of hours of footage for the few hours that are in this film. 101 interviews totaling 175 hours of those interviews, we have lost 20 of those 100 and one, by the way -- of those 101,
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by the way, i am sorry to say. you get an idea of what it takes. eight point five years to distill them. the original script was nearly twice as long as what it was now, which meant we had to sort through and not impose ourselves in the material but to allow the material to tell us what it needed, what stories it needed to tell, and to go in that direction. i just want to say that that big huge script initially is now represented by a nice companion book that my longtime partner and writer and coproducer, dayton duncan, has written, and also coproduced, and it is equally there is with the extraordinary team of editors and researchers with that material of the photographs and footage we found. it is all there, but we cannot have done this without being in public broadcasting. there is no business model for
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this. i could go to a premium channel or streaming service and get the money to do it, but they want it in a couple of years. we could not do it in a couple of years. we needed to get it right. we needed to know that when we released it, on sunday, that 25 years from now, people will be looking at it still. host: from your experience, and putting this information together, if someone does not have an interest in country music that they wanted to explore, what would you start with? guest: i would first say, we made it for you, country fans. we knew they would look at it, and say, why didn't you do that? it foreally and making everyone, and specifically the person who does not know about it, i think they will find out they no more than they thought they did, and for people who say they don't like country music, i would start with hank williams and johnny cash. johnny cash has a wonderful song called "i still miss someone."
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everybody gets it. at my door, the leaves are falling, sweethearts walk by together, and i still miss someone. i go out on a party, look for a little fun, what i find a darkened corner because i still miss someone. it just goes on verse after verse like that with the elemental stuff, yet, there is nobody within the sound of my voice that does not know those emotions that johnny cash for hank williams is expressing. host: tell folks where they can see the series. guest: it can be streamed starting sunday the four episodes and then the next four episodes the next sunday. it begins broadcasting at 8:00 p.m. eastern time on pbs sunday the 15th and runs for four nights, sunday through wednesday. 22nd,e four gets to the 23rd, 24th and 25th for five through eight. i cannot wait for everyone to see it and -- to hear their feedback. i think this will be an
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opportunity for everyone to realize we are all in this. pbs, ken can see it on burns, the documentary filmmaker behind it. thank you. atlanticou to the council in washington, d.c., for a discussion about iran's financial networks with the assistant treasury secretary on terrorist financing. that is set to start in just a few minutes. ♪
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