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Good Country Music (1970-75): Rhinestone Cowboys…and Girls!

Sunday Simmons ItcherFrom the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to the mainstream charts, the rise in popularity of country music during the seventies made for a welcome change from the raucousness of rock and the ten-a-penny pop bands churning out superficial mush. Today, I bring you John Denver, Dottie West and more good country music from the years 1970-1975. ~ Sunday Simmons

Country Roads, Take Me Home!

Growing up as the daughter of a musician, the likes of John Denver and Glen Campbell were the soundtrack to my childhood, and I grew up with an appreciation for all forms of music from Scott Walker to Joni Mitchell and everything in between!

What I love about country is how conversational it is, how the artist draws you into their story like an old friend sharing a tale. That, for me, is what makes a good country song stand out from any other genre. Check out these foot-stomping recommendations, and see if you agree…

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Essential Country Music Recommendations

Glen Campbell

Essential Album: ‘The Glen Campbell Goodtime Album’ (1970)

I will drink the wine while it is warm // And never let you catch me looking at the sun // And after all the loves of my life // After all the loves of my life, you’ll still be the one…

Before Glen’s mid-seventies hit albums ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and ‘Southern Nights,’ came a wealth of material that has to be heard to be believed. From ‘Witchita Lineman’ to ‘Galveston’, Glen Campbell has produced an incredible body of work throughout a career spanning six decades!

‘The Glen Campbell Goodtime Album’, released in 1970, boasts some incredible tracks. I love Glen’s version of Simon and Garfunkel’s (click here for more similar bands) ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and his version of Jimmy Webb’s beautiful ‘MacArthur Park’ remains one of my favourite tracks to this day.

To be honest, you could choose any of Glen’s albums and never be disappointed; his rich, velvety textured voice is an absolute treat for the ears.

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Dottie West

Essential Album: ‘Country and West’ (1970)

For as long as I love you there’ll be pain // Though tears come and go, my love remains the same // I’ll always forgive you, yes, you know that I will…

Dottie had her first taste of success with her top ten hit ‘Here Comes My Baby Back Again’ in 1964, securing her a place as one of the finest female country singers. For an album filled with country and western heartbreak and melancholy, you can’t go far wrong with Dottie’s cleverly titled 1970 release, ‘Country and West’. 

Just one look at titles like ‘I’m So Afraid of Losing You’ and ‘You’ve Destroyed Me’ should be some indication of what’s in store for you! Going through a break-up? In need of something to listen to while you cry into your ice-cream? ‘Country and West’ is the album for you – all sung by the lady who influenced contemporaries including Crystal Gayle and Dolly Parton.

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Charlie Rich

Essential Track: ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ (‘Reflections’, 1973)

If you happen to see the most beautiful girl that walked out on me // Tell her I’m sorry // Tell her I need my baby // Oh, won’t you tell her that I love her…

I love the chord progression of Rich’s 1973 hit, ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’. This song has such a pretty melody and a lovely sentimental lyric when the steel guitar comes, adding to the melancholy theme of lost love.

This song was a sensation back in the early seventies, and you’ll find cover versions of Charlie’s classic ballad by Slim Whitman, Rita Coolidge, Andy Williams and Englebert Humperdinck to name a few!

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John Denver

Essential Track: ‘Annie’s Song’ (‘Back Home Again’, 1974)

Like a storm in the desert // Like a sleepy blue ocean // You fill up my senses // Come fill me again…

Aside from his clear, simplistic vocals and pretty acoustic style, the thing I love most about John Denver is how lyrically clever he is as a songwriter. ‘Annie’s Song’ from John’s 1974 album, ‘Back Home Again’, is just one example of his poetic wordplay.

From the sweet acoustic guitar intro of ‘Annie’s Song’, you’re instantly captivated and as the song washes over you it builds to a gentle crescendo of absolute country pop perfection. Without question one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

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Kris Kristofferson

Essential Track: ‘Help Me Make It Through the Night’ (‘Kristofferson’, 1970)

I don’t care who’s right or wrong // I don’t try to understand // Let the devil take tomorrow // ‘Cause tonight I need a friend…

Can country music be sexy? Oh, I think so. Kris Kristofferson with his rugged, beardy, mountain man image and absolutely unctuous vocals ticks all the boxes for sexiest country music star of the seventies. Not content with musical success, Kris also secured himself a successful acting career with movies including ‘A Star Is Born’ (1976) alongside Barbara Streisand, and appearing as Whistler in the ‘Blade’ movies.

‘Help Me Make It Through the Night’ is an absolute gem of a track, and whilst it’s been covered by Elvis, Gladys Knights and Norah Jones to name a few, no one does it quite like the man who wrote it. I love the conversational style of Kris’ version; it’s a simple country plea for a bit of night-time company, and I’m pretty sure many women at the time would’ve gladly acquiesced to his request.

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Eddie Rabbit

Essential Track: ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ (‘Horizon’, 1975)

Well, I love a rainy night // It’s such a beautiful sight // I love to feel the rain on my face // To taste the rain on my lips…

Starting out his musical career as a songwriter, Eddie Rabbit found success after Elvis Presley recorded his track ‘Kentucky Rain’ in 1969. Using that success as a springboard to a recording career, Eddie unleashed his rockabilly style on the country music scene in the early seventies.

I’ve chosen ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ as my essential track for Eddie, I just love the easy, toe-tapping rhythm of this song, and it’s ridiculously catchy hook line is sure to get you singing along. Guaranteed to get everyone up on their feet, this is a sure fire hit ideal for a seventies themed country music party! Or if you just fancy clapping along to a feel good rockabilly track!

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Tammy Wynette

Essential Track: ‘Woman to Woman’ (‘Woman to Woman’, 1974)

Right from my heart // And you can take it or leave it // Oh, but its true // A woman to woman // Me to you…

Along with Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette helped place female country singers on the musical map, and paved the way for contemporaries from Reba McEntire to Kellie Pickler.

Tammy’s voice on ‘Woman to Woman’ is gorgeous, with so much depth of feeling  in her delivery it’s easy to see how she influenced so many future female vocalists. Country songs above all others have a message; a story to tell, and Tammy was one of country music’s finest storytellers.

Pretty, simplistic and conversational, ‘Woman to Woman’ is my favourite track by Tammy Wynette by far.

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And If You Really Want to Get into the Early Seventies County Music Scene…

You just can’t go wrong with two of the biggest names in mainstream country music – the inimitable Loretta Lynn and the sensation that is Johnny Cash. I can’t wrap this up without a nod to these two incredible, iconic country artists!

Loretta Lynn told us the tale of ‘The Coal Miner’s Daughter’ in 1970.

Johnny Cash was the original ‘Man in Black’ in 1971.

If you loved this article, why not check out my list of underrated 80’s country artists for more foot stomping sensations.

And don’t forget to get commenting and let us know what your list would look like!

Oi Oi, I’m Sunday Simmons, professional freelance writer and indie author. Born into a family of entertainers, musicians and artists, I chose the pen as my instrument at a young age and I’ve been scribbling stuff ever since. Hopefully some of it makes sense! Writing is my passion, and with three kids and plenty of pets, life is chaos and I love it.
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