Iconic music artists
The country music genre has been no stranger to larger than life icons over the years from its inception until rather recently. The genre doesn’t really seem to have that one larger than life performer today and it doesn’t seem like there’s one on the horizon either, but here are 10 who will live on forever.
Everybody in the genre of country music for the last half century owes everything to Hank Williams. Without Hank Williams country and western music may never have truly taken off from the Appalachian music it stemmed from. Williams brought the genre to the forefront of popular music with his highly emotional songs like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and was the first true outlaw of country music with his drinking and cheating ways that, unfortunately, left him dead by age 29. However, it was his very same fast life that contributed to his beautiful country poetry and helped to make him a legend. No other musical artist has been name dropped in as many songs since.
Some might bristle at the fact that Johnny Cash is only second on this list, but you’ve got to pay respect to those that paved the way and Hank Williams paved the way for Johnny Cash. Cash might be the most legendary country music icon among the public, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the most important. What does make Cash incredibly important is that just like Hank before him, he changed the genre in immeasurable ways. Cash brought to country music a rock & roll sensibility that helped to bring in new fans to the genre by the score. He continued to do this throughout the remainder of his career, right up until the end with great rock covers like “Hurt” originally by Nine Inch Nails.
Merle Haggard has influenced more country singers than maybe any performer in the history of the genre, at least that’s what we learned recently when he was named by today’s country stars as their favorite artist in CMT’s All-Time Top 40 list from 2014. Haggard topped artists in the list containing performers from all genres that included Cash, Williams, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and others. Haggard is widely influential because he’s probably the greatest singer-songwriter in the history of country music, with all due respect to Willie Nelson. Haggard arguably has one of the three to five best voices in the genre’s great history, as well. Country singer Joe Nichols told CMT: “If you have a Mount Rushmore of country music, Merle’s on it without a doubt in my mind, no questions asked.”