Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Most Important Book

Category: News

The International Country Music Conference's (ICMC) Charles K. Wolfe Memorial Panel, held on Friday, May 23, celebrated the publishing of what can easily be considered the most important book on country music in the history of country music. The 40th anniversary of the publication of Country Music, USA was commemorated with a panel that included the book's author, Dr. Bill C. Malone.

With hundreds, if not thousands, of books on country music, rock and roll, punk, R&B, and all other forms of popular music sitting on the shelf at the book store or in Amazon.com's database, one might shrug and wonder just why one book is so important. The answer to that question is simple: before Country Music, USA, there simply were no books on country music. Malone chose the history of country music as the topic for his Ph.D. dissertation in 1962 at the University of Texas. To say his topic raised a few eyebrows is an understatement: in academia, writing about "music" meant one was writing about classical music. Popular music was unworthy of scholarly investigation and coverage.

Bill C. Malone autographs his ground-
breaking book
Country Music, USA
at ICMC.

Anyone, from the most educated scholar (the late Dr. Wolfe, for whom the panel was named) to the lowliest country music blogger (that would be me), who has ever put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and combined the eight parts of speech into sentences and paragraphs about country music owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Malone for his work. He did not just open the door for other books, he kicked the door down, splintering with it the stereotypes that country music (or any other genre) was unapproachable on an academic level. Because Dr. Malone's dissertation was published, people saw that Beethoven and Mozart or the Baroque and Romantic eras of classical music were not the default definition of "a book about music." Serious works on rock, jazz, the blues, and all sub-genres of popular music have been published because Malone showed it could be done (and successfully).

Nearly any work on country music published in the last four decades will have Country Music, USA referenced in the bibliography section. More than that, every work on country music exists because Malone had the foresight to chronicle country and western music for all to read about.

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