Ken Burns Turns To Country Music

Read about Ken Burns’s new documentary project ‘Country Music’



Acclaimed Documentary Film Maker Ken Burns

New Project ‘Country Music’

Released in 2019


Ken Burns has been involved in some of the most important documentary series ever made.  From The Civil War decades ago through The West, The Dust Bowl, Prohibition, Baseball: The Tenth Inning and, most recently, the revelatory The Vietnam War, he and his team have engrossed us, making sense of the past with meticulous detail and highly inventive presentation.  Over more than thirty years Burns has produced and directed some of the most acclaimed chronicles ever made.

Musically, his oversight of the series Jazz (2001) led to fascinating results.   In 2013 Listening Through The Lens witnessed Burns, as part of the Americana Honors and Awards ceremony in Nashville, presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award for Hank Williams which was accepted by grand-daughter and artist Holly Williams.

His next topic “What Is Country Music?” will be thoughtfully considered and presented to us in 2019.  Reports are that there is some urgency to this project while key performers and industry figures are alive and able to give a first-hand account of their role in this important and somewhat misunderstood genre.  Guy Clark and Merle Haggard are two that already have been able to provide their critical insights on film before their passing.

From the official PBS/Ken Burns website:

Country Music will chronicle the history of a uniquely American art form, rising from the experiences of remarkable people in distinctive regions of our nation.  From southern Appalachia’s songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking western swing of Texas, from California honky tonks to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, we will follow the evolution of country music over the course of the twentieth century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

It will be directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan; and produced by Julie Dunfey—Emmy-award winning creators of PBS’s most-acclaimed and most-watched documentaries for more than a quarter century, including The Civil War, Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The Dust Bowl, and many more.

Country Music will be a sweeping, multi-episode series, exploring the questions, “What is country music?” “Where did it come from?” while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created it—from the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills, to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more—as well as the times in which they lived.  And like the music itself, Country Music will tell unforgettable stories—stories of the hardships and joys shared by everyday people.

We will trace its origins in minstrel music, ballads, hymns, and the blues, and its early years when it was called hillbilly music played across the airwaves on radio station barn dances. We will see how Hollywood B movies instituted the fad of singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and watch how the rise of juke joints after World War II changed the musical style by bringing electric guitars and pedal steel guitars to the forefront.  We will follow the rise of bluegrass music with Bill Monroe and we will note how one of country music’s offspring—rockabilly—mutated into rock and roll in Memphis.  And we’ll see how Nashville slowly became not just the mecca of country music, but “Music City USA.” All the while, we will note the constant tug of war between the desire to make country music as mainstream as possible and the periodic reflexes to bring it back to its roots.


Bring it on!


Read about Ken Burns’s new documentary project ‘Country Music’

Read about Ken Burns’s new documentary project ‘Country Music’







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Author: Rob Dickens

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  1. Simply can’t wait, Ken Burns your the heart & sole of what America stands for ! Pls keep up the good work !!!!❤️?????????

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    • all true – it will be a special event alright. Bring it on!

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  2. White man’s Blues, let’s hear it Ken.

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    • It will be fascinating to see what he covers. The Bristol 1927 sessions will be in episode 1 I believe.

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