Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music. Country Music features never-before-seen footage and photographs, plus interviews with more than 80 country music artists. The eight-part 16-hour series is directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan; and produced by Julie Dunfey.
Country Music explores questions –– such as “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?“–– while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created and shaped it — from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more — as well as the times in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of hardships and joys shared by everyday people.
No one has told the story this way before. Learn more at PBS.org.
Encore Broadcast on Fridays at 8:00 p.m, beginning January 3, 2020, on Nine PBS.
Nine Passport members are able to stream the entire series for a period of six months beginning September 15, 2019. Nine Passport is a member benefit that provides you with extended access to an on-demand library of quality public television programming. Learn more about Nine Passport.
“The Rub” (Beginnings – 1933)
See how what was first called “hillbilly music” reaches new audiences through phonographs and radio, and launches the careers of country music’s first big stars, the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.
“Hard Times” (1933 – 1945)
Watch as Nashville becomes the heart of the country music industry. The genre grows in popularity during the Great Depression and World War II as America falls in love with singing cowboys, Texas Swing and the Grand Ole Opry’s Roy Acuff.
“The Hillbilly Shakespeare” (1945 – 1953)
See how the bluegrass sound spreads in post-war America, and meet honky-tonk star Hank Williams, whose songs of surprising emotional depth are derived from his troubled and tragically short life.
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” (1953 – 1963)
Travel to Memphis, where Sun Studios artists Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley usher in the era of rockabilly. Ray Charles crosses America’s racial divide by recording a country album. Patsy Cline shows off Music City’s smooth new Nashville Sound.
“The Sons and Daughters of America” (1964 – 1968)
See how country music reflects a changing America, with Loretta Lynn speaking to women everywhere, Merle Haggard becoming “The Poet of the Common Man” and audiences looking beyond race to embrace Charley Pride.
“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” (1968 – 1972)
Learn how country music responds to a nation divided by the Vietnam War, as Army captain turned songwriter Kris Kristofferson sets a new lyrical standard, and artists like Bob Dylan and the Byrds find a recording home in Nashville.
“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” (1973 – 1983)
Witness a vibrant era in country music, with Dolly Parton finding mainstream success; Hank Williams, Jr. and Rosanne Cash emerging from their famous fathers’ shadows; and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings launching the “Outlaw” movement.
“Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’” (1984 – 1996)
Learn how “New Traditionalists” like George Strait, Randy Travis and the Judds help country music stay true to its roots. Witness both the rise of superstar Garth Brooks and the return of an aging Johnny Cash to the industry he helped create.