Why The Fascination?
By: Brian Michael Norris
People have often asked me, what's your deal with Patsy Cline? Why the
fascination? I agree, it is unusual given that I was born 9 years after
her death. But, growing up, my parents loved to play music, though, and
most of it was country. While many of the LP's my parents owned were by
contemporary artists of the '70's, I stumbled across an LP of Patsy
Cline's that my Mom had when I was about 9 or so years old. I played
that record over and over and over, and became mesmerized by her voice.
Though I was only 9, I had heard many country female vocalists because,
as I said, my parents played their music frequently. But, I had never
heard a voice like Patsy Cline's. Technically speaking, Patsy's voice
was a contralto, and her range extended from the E below middle C up
more than two octaves to end on a bell-like A4. She had a very unique
artists to how she performed her songs, utilizing growls, sighs, pauses,
as well as melisma (stretching a syllable into several notes). She was
actually discouraged from ever taking formal voice lessons, as those in
the business felt it would alter her style.
And, so it began... I started collecting more of her music, then,
slowly, VHS tapes about her life, and biographies. The more I learned
the more I wanted to know. This was one fascinating woman. She became an
inspiration to me for many different reasons. Aside from the gift of
her voice and her ability to sing, which in and of itself is
breathtaking, this woman whom I would never have the chance to meet
would teach me many important principles. To summarize, here are a few
of the life lessons I learned from Patsy Cline.
1. It Doesn't Matter Where You Came From.
So, not so bad for a poor girl, from the wrong side of the tracks, who was booed by her own hometown, eh?
What matters is what you do with what you have and where you go from
here. Patsy grew up in a broken home on the wrong side of the tracks
(the poor side) in Winchester VA. Her Father left the family when she
was a teenager. Wallow in self-pity? That was not Patsy's style. Her
style was to handle the cards dealt her. She got a job at a local drug
store and at night her mother would take her around to local singing
gigs for a few extra bucks. They'd get in sometimes around 3 AM. Then,
she'd get up at 8 and start all over again.
2. If Someone Tells You That You Can't Do Something, Don't Stop.
Be persistent. When Patsy first traveled from Virginia to Nashville to
audition at the Grand Ole Opry, she didn't even have enough money to
stay in a hotel. She slept on a park bench with a friend. After her
audition, the Opry told her she was not mature enough for their
audience. She would return a few years later and be offered a permanent
spot as a member of the Opry cast.
3. Don't Let Haters Bring You Down.
Because Patsy came from a broken home, and lived on the wrong side of
town, many of those in Winchester shunned her. Nonetheless, every year
she rode in the Winchester Apple Blossum parade with pride and she held
her head high, even while many in the crowd booed her.
4. You Can't Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover.
Patsy was a spiritual person, but she didn't shove it in your face.
Patsy demonstrated that you don't need to show others your religion or
push it on them. And, you don't need to wear a nun's habit to be a
spiritual person. Some, at the time, considered her wardrobe
inappropriate, flashy or trashy. But, in Patsy's case, as is most often
true, don't judge a book by its cover.
5. Listen To Your Momma, and You'll Be Fine.
Patsy had a very close relationship with her Mom, as do I. The cowgirl
outfits that Patsy wore on stage were hand-made by her Mom. And, like my
Mother, Patsy's Mother always encouraged her to do what she wanted and
to pursue her dreams.
6. A Single Person Can Change the Course of History.
When Patsy was entering the Country Music sceme, it was a male-dominated industry.
Most female artists were the wives of male artists. Patsy had only
Patsy, and she had to fight hard. She worked hard, earned respect, then
demanded it. She became the first female country artist to headline a
Country music show, and earn equal compensation to her male
7. You Don't Have To Do What Others Are Doing.
Do your own thing, and break the mold if it feels right. Patsy was a
pioneer of the "Nashville Sound." Together with her producer, Owen
Bradley, many of her songs crossed over into the Pop charts and she
opened up a whole new audience for Country music.
8. Be Kind, Generous, and Remember Those Who Helped You.
Patsy was known as a very generous person, having helped Loretta Lynn
with drapes for her new home in Nashville, and Dottie West with rent
money. She helped the female singers just starting out getting their
bearings with being in a male-dominated industry. She was known to give
gifts to song-writers who wrote her songs that turned into hits. She was
humble enough to know she wouldn't be where she was without other good
people around her.
9. It's Quality, Not Quantity.
In her very short career, having died tragically in a plane crash at the
age of 30, she had recorded just over 100 songs. However, that short
career has earned her many awards and accolades in the 50 years since
Some of the most outstanding awards are:
1973: First solo female country artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In addition, Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits album was listed in the 2005 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records
as having logged the most weeks on any music chart, for a release by a
female artist in any genre of music. The album has also achieved Diamond
status in the U.S., with certified sales of greater than 10 million
1995: Grammy Award for Creative Contribution of Outstanding Artistic Significance to the Field of Recording.
1999: Patsy ranked #11 on the VH1 Cable TV countdown of the "100 Greatest Women in Rock". Yes ROCK!
1999: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
2000: Patsy was named country radio's "Greatest Female Artist of the 20th Century" by Radio & Records Magazine.
2002: Patsy ranked #1 on the CMT cable TV countdown of the "40 Greatest Women in Country Music".
"Crazy" is the number-one most played jukebox song of all time.
She has been considered the most influential female singer in the
history of country music, and one of the most influential singers in
recording history of any genre.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.