How Nashville ‘Killed’ Traditional Country Music—and Then Reinvented It

The Genre Created by 'Hillbillies' and Folkies Now Speaks to Pickup-Driving Suburbanites

25 years ago, American Heritage writer Tony Scherman declared traditional country music dead and done with, asking, “How far from its social origins can an art form grow before it loses meaning?”

Scherman’s impassioned farewell created something of a stir—but he was not the first and certainly not the last of the music’s obituarists who erred in assuming that cultures and cultural forms survive by resisting change rather than accommodating it.

While the very name of “country” music emphasizes its cultural roots, it’s been shaped by commerce from the outset. …

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When L.A.’s Recording Studios Ruled the Music Scene

The City's Irreplaceable "Temples of Sound" Were Customized With Hot Tubs, Personal Chefs, and Waterbeds

It was 1962, and the rock and roll record business was on the rise after the multiyear slump that had followed the debuts of artists like Elvis, Chuck Berry, and …

The Alabama Recording Studios Where Music Was Never Segregated

How the Muscle Shoals Sound Made a Rich Brew Out of Rock, Country, and R&B

Rod Stewart wasn’t pleased.

It was 1975, and the British rocker had traveled to Sheffield, Alabama, with a specific mission in mind: He wanted to record at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio …

How Prince Introduced Us to the “Minneapolis Sound”

From Polka to Punk-Funk, the Twin Cities Assimilated New Genres From Their Migrant Roots

The pop music genius Prince Rogers Nelson, better known to most of us as Prince, made his national television debut on American Bandstand in 1980. Performing “I Wanna Be …

How Southern Rock Reclaims Regional Identity While Facing Down Old Ghosts

By Reinventing Rebel Attitude, the Allmans and Their Brethren Forged a New Genre

The South spawned rock ’n’ roll. Some scholars pin its arrival to the first week of March, 1951, in Memphis, Tennessee. There, in the studio run by record producer, label …

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Speech Reminds Us That Songs Are for Listening, Not Reading

But the Folk Rocker, Like the Ancient Greeks, Thinks Music and Literature Can Co-Exist

“Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.” Homer’s opening to the Odyssey is one of the most well-known lines of what we call literature—but the Greeks called song. This …