Here are a few of our biggest takeaways from the docuseries that is sure to move country music fans when it premieres September 15 on PBS.
5 Things We Can’t Wait for Fans to See in Ken Burns’ Country Music
1. It makes the connection between then and now
While country music is a century-old, it is still very much a living, breathing craft. From Garth Brooks to Trisha Yearwood, Marty Stuart to Vince Gill, current Opry members do a beautiful job capturing the genre’s storied legacy in their appearances on Ken Burns’ Country Music. It’s hard not to get chills when hearing Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor talk about the genre’s “big bang” moment.
2. Interviews with the legends we’ve lost
Country Music has been an eight-year endeavor. Burns conducted hundreds of interviews, including some with beloved genre icons who’ve passed away in the years leading up to the documentary’s release. In Country Music, Merle Haggard shares how his life was forever changed by Johnny Cash’s San Quentin performance. Jean Shepard recounts the devastation she experienced when she lost her husband Hawkshaw Hawkins in the same plane crash that took the lives of Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. Roy Clark and Mel Tillis reflect on their earliest days performers. The precious interviews serve as poignant reminders that these artists’ influence will live on for years to come.
3. Never-before-seen photos and videos
With uncovered footage that even the most seasoned country music historian hasn’t seen, the documentary feels like the ultimate time capsule. The Grand Ole Opry had the honor of being the largest contributor of photos to project. Equally exciting, Ken Burns’ documentary research team came across images in the Opry’s own archives that hadn’t been touched in years. Set to music and interviews, the video footage and photos are sure to be breathtaking.
4. It shares the unsung stories
A distinctly American genre, country music is as complicated as the nation that gave birth to it. Burns takes great care in telling all aspects of its story, including how country music was influenced by the blues and spirituals that rose up from black music tradition. By recognizing these confluences, viewers can appreciate music’s power to unite instead of divide.
5. Surprising backstories behind famous connections
Country music is a tightly woven tapestry, so much so that it’s hard to appreciate just how many interesting connections there are within the genre. One artist influences another who goes on to write a song for somebody else who then records a hit that inspires a whole new generation. Let this be our formal petition for a “Six Degrees of Johnny Cash” game, just as there was for Kevin Bacon.