Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Lynn Anderson's Early '70s Pop Chart Crossover Streak

Lynn Anderson, who passed away on July 30, was an early seventies radio VIP. Although her country chart presence stretched all the way between 1967 and 1988, her streak of ten crossover pop hits happened precisely between the years 1970 and 1975. Below is a list of all of these in order:

1. Lynn Anderson - "Rose Garden" (Billboard #3, entered 11/28/70; country #1). Written by Joe South. Produced by Glenn Sutton. LPs/45: "Rose Garden"/"Nothing Between Us" (Columbia 1970); Rose Garden (Columbia 1971).

This was Anderson's biggie, a country #1 that rose up to #3 on the pop chart. Written and first recorded by Joe South, the song had also been tried out by Freddie Weller, Billy Joe Royal, and Dobie Gray - all chart flops - before Anderson made it her own. Here's the Lynn Anderson quote about the song that pops up most: "I believe that 'Rose Garden' was released at just the right time. People were trying to recover from the Vietnam Years," she said. "The message in the song [was] that... if you just take hold of life and go ahead, you can make something out of nothing."

Maybe, but the song was really a post-"Stand By Your Man" early '70s feminist anthem right up there with "I Am Woman," "One's on the Way," and "The Pill."  I'm pretty sure that the message more than a few women heard when "Rose Garden" hit the airwaves was "make your own damn dinner." Before Anderson recorded her version of it, it had been earmarked wrongly as a man song because it mentions diamond rings and has an implied focus on bringing home the bacon, but it only resonated once its Scarlett O'Hara-like "I beg your pardon" refrain was voiced by a woman. Anderson probably knew this but wasn't about to use the F word (Feminism) in the country press.

2. Lynn Anderson - "I’m Alright" (Billboard #112, entered 12/5/70; country #20). Written by Bill Anderson. Produced by Slim Williamson. 45: "I'm Alright"/"Pick of the Week" (Chart 1970). LPs: Lynn Anderson at Home (Chart 1969); I'm Alright (Chart 1970).

None of Anderson's pop crossover hits after "Rose Garden" made it past #63. Should she have embraced that song's feminist angle more aggressively? Her follow up to "Rose Garden," an ode to independence called "I'm Alright" hinted that she might have considered it, although its relatively low pop and country chart showings perhaps caused her to back pedal.

Country singer and songwriter Bill Anderson (no relation to Lynn) wrote this and she originally released it on her 1969 At Home with Lynn album on the Chart label. After she had switched to Columbia and had her big hit with "Rose Garden" in 1970, Chart reissued and repackaged the song to capitalize. "I'm Alright" was a suitable choice for an immediate follow up - like "Rose Garden," it was written from a man's perspective but had a much more self-empowering effect when sung by a woman.

The B-side was written by her mother, Liz Anderson, who had not only racked up a few country hits of her own as a singer in the sixties, but also scored some big ones as a songwriter, such as Merle Haggard's iconic "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers" and "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive." Her 1967 country top 5 hit "Mama Spank," though, was an odd equivocation of her man's behavior with that of a toddler from the days of corporeal punishment.

3. Lynn Anderson - "You’re My Man" (Billboard #63, entered 5/15/71; country #1). Written and produced by Glenn Sutton. 45: "You're My Man"/"I'm Gonna Write a Song" (Columbia 1971). LP: You're My Man (Columbia 1971).

The B-side for this single is called "I'm Gonna Write a Song," written by her then-husband and producer Glenn Sutton, and it contains the lines "Folks sit around with their face in a frown and gripe about the way things are...We need a little more soul savin' and a whole lot more flag wavin'." But it also calls for songs about "sunshine and praise for every living thing." Welcome to the country music of the early '70s. Jerry Reed recorded a version of it in 1973.

4. Lynn Anderson - "How Can I Unlove You" (Billboard #63, entered 8/21/71; country #1). Written by Joe South. Produced by Glenn Sutton. Arranged by Cam Mullins. 45: "How Can I Unlove You"/"Don't Say Things You Don't Mean" (Columbia 1970). LP: How Can I Unlove You (Columbia 1971).

Her second of three Joe South-written hits.
5. Lynn Anderson - "Cry" (Billboard #71, entered 1/29/72; country #3). Written by Churchill Kohlmann. Produced by Glenn Sutton. Arranged by Cam Mullins. 45: "Cry"/"Simple Words" (Columbia (1972). LP: Cry. 

This was a nostalgic cover version of the 1951 Johnnie Ray #1 hit.

6. Lynn Anderson - "Listen to a Country Song" (Billboard #107, entered 7/1/72; country #4). Written by Alan Garth and Jim Messina. Produced by Glenn Sutton. 45: "Listen to a Country Song"/"That's What Loving You Has Meant to Me" (Columbia 1972). LP: Listen to a Country Song.

This is Anderson's version of a Loggins and Messina song that had appeared on that duo's 1971 Sittin' In album.

7. Lynn Anderson - "Fool Me" (Billboard #101, entered 11/18/72; country #4). Writer: Joe South. 45: "Fool Me"/"What's Made Milwaukee Famous" (Columbia 1972). LP: Listen to a Country Song. 

"Fool Me" is Lynn Anderson's third and final pop crossover hit to be written by Joe South. The single's flipside is her version of Glenn Sutton's classic "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)," which rearranges the perspective of the 1968 Jerry Lee Lewis country top ten recording: she's the loser because her man's a drunk.

8. Lynn Anderson - "Keep Me in Mind" (Billboard #104, entered 3/3/73; country #1). Written by George Richy and Glenn Sutton. Produced by Glenn Sutton. 45: "Keep Me in Mind"/"Rodeo Cowboy" (Columbia 1973). LP: Keep Me in Mind.

Glenn Sutton's "Rodeo Cowboy" on the B-side is a wholesome bale of country folk worth listening to again. 
9. Lynn Anderson - "Top of the World" (Billboard #74, entered 6/30/73; country #2). Written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis. Produced by Glenn Sutton. 45: "Top of the World"/"I Wish I Was a Little Boy Again" (Columbia 1973). LP: Top of the World. 

Other contemporary pop hits Anderson covered on her early seventies albums included "Knock Three Times," "Joy to the World," "When You Say Love," "We've Got to Get It On Again," "I Believe in Music," "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," and "Killing Me Softly with His Song," among others.

The B-side of "Top of the World" is a complicated offering from Anderson, who - whether she realized it or not - was one of country music's more prominent voices of gender experimentation, having recorded two songs ("Rose Garden" and "I'm Alright") originally intended for men. It's written by Glen Sutton, who was a prolific writer of country songs with childhood themes (especially for Tammy Wynette) and Darrell Edwards, who was a frequent George Jones collaborator. The song has Anderson singing the following lines: "Girls grow into women and boys grow into men/ And the world of make believe all too soon must end/ And I blame that awful change for the shape my life is in/ Oh I wish I was a little boy again."

10. Lynn Anderson - "What a Man My Man Is" (Billboard #93, entered 1/4/75; country #1). Written and produced by Glen Sutton. 45: "What a Man, My Man Is"/"Everything's Falling in Place (for Me and You)" (Columbia 1973).

This was Anderson's final appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 and also her very last country #1, although she'd appear with regularity on that chart until 1988. 

2 comments:

  1. "What a Man My Man Is" was one of the records that eased me into country music from rock and roll. It was on an LP sampler of then-current hits, which included Johnny Paycheck's ""11 Months and 29 Days" and a couple other tracks that seemed rock-influenced. I've spent the 40 years since then as a hardcore collector of vintage country music, but have never checked out another Lynn Anderson tune. I guess this is my chance....

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