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How do you make a sprawling list of tunes seem criminally short? Try to squeeze the greatest country songs of all time into that space. As we considered a century's worth of story-driven songcraft, we did our darndest to make sure all of the greats were recognized. And when we say "of all time," we mean all time. Every era is reflected here, from the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers' historic recordings to the reign of the "Nashville Sound," outlaws, singing cowboys and pop crossovers. And before you shake your fists and grumble furiously about how the list forgot "Friends in Low Places" or gave "9 to 5" the short stick, let's establish one basic rule: One song per artist, with the exception being duets.
One song from Cash. One song from Garth. And, yes, as tough as it can be, only one song from Dolly. Now, dust off your turntable or boot up Spotify and travel through of the greatest tracks to come from Music City, Bakersfield and beyond. Agree or disagree? We want to hear from you: us on Reddit at 12 p. CDT Tuesday, Aug. Evocative and woeful, Parton's marquee recording crosses genre and generations — a once-in-a-world song without boundaries.
McGraw's ballad reminds listeners to love deeper, speak sweeter and give forgiveness that you've been denying. Five decades removed from hitting airwaves, and country music faithful still stand tall for Wynette and her booming chorus. It's known for its layered, mournful instrumentation, but it's the ballad's devastating storytelling and Paisley's ability to softly serenade that makes "Whiskey Lullaby" one of country's best modern cuts. The country music Class of returns to the all-time list, this time asking a question in the shadow of a generation-defining event.
Inthis jaunty tune became the first country song by a female artist to sell more than 1 million copies. On his chart-topper, Black tried — and failed — to drink a woman off of his mind. A commercial and critical success still filling Lower Broadway taverns with a chorus that offers "My first taste of love, oh bittersweet. One of the biggest pop-country crossovers in history, the beloved duet has lived on through remixes and constant karaoke rotation. Cash made it famous, but no song may better exemplify the power and impact of Kristofferson's pen.
During the song's release and beyond, Williams explains why "we're all gonna be what we're gonna be. Recorded more than 90 years ago, "T for Texas" is considered by many to be the premier song from a blue yodelin' father to the genre. It spent 40 weeks on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and 60 years at the top of mind for s country classics. Covered in drum loops and s synthesized production, it's Rosanne Cash's sorrow that stands the test of time.
Sure, Darius Rucker made it a hit, but little comes close to experiencing Old Crow howling this singalong for thousands of invested onlookers. Country music's best addition to soundtrack canon? Maybe — it's the most lively, at least.
A soft tap on the bass, a snap of the finger and Miller's off to croon listeners with his vagabond tale. It was released inbut the sentiment still strikes a chord today. What did Billie Joe throw off the bridge? Regardless of the answer, Gentry captivates with every word. An awe-inspiring musical eulogy from Gill, delivered best during times when something moving needs to be heard.
Cash released his ode to temptation incementing words in musical history that hold true in Complemented by Spanish picking, "El Paso" offers a bloody romance worthy of western songwriting. Written by Bobbie Gentry inthe almighty Reba unleashed fire with her show-closing version of this song. The s country anthem passed from Generation X mothers for millennial daughters to make their own. In a characteristically triumphant move, Swift turns a tune about scathing critics into the brightest addition of her country music catalog. Homecoming le to heartbreak on Milsap's chart-topper, wherein the singer "thumbed my way from L.
During a trip to Miami, he met a janitor at his hotel, who told him there were "three things in this world that's worth a solitary dime. The King of Country Music subtly parades his royal status with a crisp story from the road. A taste of traditional western swing that simply asks listeners to dance all night and stay a little longer. Nearly 60 years since being initially released — and 45 years since Harris and Parsons' duet — yes, love can still hurt.
A slick-picking piece of country music and No. It was a country-pop hit that kept the singer balanced between each world. An instant classic upon its release in Urban sounds unstoppable on his chart-topper, a love song that's also wrapped up in his personal redemption. What one song could possibly capture the career of this country music giant? When he found himself in Hollywood with a broken heart and shattered dreams, Yoakam clung to hope with his "guitars, Cadillacs and hillbilly music.
In a devastating twist, it turns out he's dreaming of his hometown while on death row. A slippy lead guitar, Haggard's sketched storytelling California country with "Mama Tried. Travis lays out his devotion in his ature song, and listeners haven't stopped loving it since its release in This folk song about a mighty train had already been passed down for generations when Acuff cut it inand his version helped the "Wabash" legend spread around the world.
Clark penned a beautiful tribute to his grandmother's boyfriend, Jack Prigg, "an old school man of the world" who would sing "Red River Valley" with the budding songwriter. Only songwriting great Jimmy Webb could conjure up an epic theme worthy of country's greatest supergroup, composed of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.
InDaniels found the perfect showcase for his fiery fiddle technique — a familiar tale about a boy named Johnny who makes a bet with the devil and wins. Against all odds, tractors have nothing to do with Diffie's song. Conley counts down the hardest things he'll ever do, and the song's title tops the list. With the title track of their breakthrough album — about a young woman who's ready to spread her wings — the Dixie Chicks truly took flight.
That may be true, but this tearjerker about carrying on after a move, a divorce and the death of a parent still stings 25 years later. What if "Jolene" could have given her side of the story? On Sugarland's massive hit, Jennifer Nettles sings from the perspective of a mistress, who begs her lover to stay before deciding she's tired of waiting.
It's often falsely assumed to be a patriotic song, but McBride's triumphant anthem is actually about a woman breaking free of an abusive relationship.
Whether you're singing it to your kids, a loved one or yourself, Womack's plea to live life to the fullest and take chances truly resonates. Oslin rocketed through the decades on her hit, which fittingly sounds very much like a product of its time. Sure, it's about swinging on the porch is it really, though? Kenny's bartender teaches him a valuable lesson: "The good stuff" isn't booze; it's the memories you make with your loved ones.
George and Tammy's greatest duet explains that "only love" can transform a "cold metallic thing" into something more. Bryan didn't write this song, but he made a powerful connection to it, relating it to the deaths of his brother and sister. He sings about learning of the death of a friend and going to the pier they would sit at to "watch the sunset disappear and drink a beer. Some things never change. InFrizzell kicked off his celebrated career with this No. Keith was already an established star, but he didn't really crank up the attitude until this hit, in which he rubs his success in the face of an unrequited love.
Some consider this Williams entry, a can't-miss in country music history, to define the genre. Facebook Twitter. What are the all-time greatest country songs? These top our list.
Story Behind the Song: 'Whiskey Lullaby'. Story Behind the Song: 'Girl Crush'. Share your feedback to help improve our site!Looking for my big country guy
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BIG COUNTRY: Rogers leading by example