Country Music’s 70s 80s List

Country music is more than pickups and whiskey – it’s about family, love and overcoming hardship – and these songs document these themes.

Here is our collection of classic country songs from the 1970s and 80s, when artists played freely without being constrained by corporate, money-grubbing world that now exists in modern country music.

1. Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash

Country music has long been known for its strict traditionalism, but the 1970s marked a turning point. Influential artists took risks and embraced crossover. Dolly Parton made her mark on country music while Kenny Rogers captured audiences worldwide.

Johnny Cash was one of the most prominent country stars of the 1970s, yet not without personal struggles. Substance abuse plagued him and his family suffered marital dissolution and financial struggles. Johnny’s struggle for health was evident in his music: his track “Ring of Fire” depicts addiction’s destructiveness as well as marriage’s fragility.

Cash showed his social consciousness during this decade by singing about issues like Native American rights and prison reform on his groundbreaking album American Recordings. These songs demonstrated his multifaceted nature despite his personal and professional struggles; each produced critical and commercial success.

Dolly Parton became one of the most beloved female country singers of her era thanks to her stunning vocals and captivating storytelling, but she also ventured beyond country into rock and roll music, most prominently with this breezy anthem about working nine to five titled, “Nine to Five,” released early 1989 and featuring a pulsing rhythm and expert pedal steel work that instantly became an instant classic upon its debut; Parton would revisit this style later with producer Kris Kristofferson on her next album I Never Promised You a Rose Garden released in 1990.

2. The Chair by George Strait

George Strait epitomized country music’s winning formula during a career that saw him amass 60 Number One hits, never making grand gestures and opting instead for maximum longevity and consistent hits; his career could never boast without at least one chart-topper! He was truly singles artist – no album released without at least one chart-topper being included.

Strait was born into a musical family and quickly began playing music as soon as he could walk. His grandfather Pappy, known for scouting talent in Nashville, and father, who ran an independent label signed him when he was seventeen. Although initially recording with Ace in the Hole Band before recording this song as his breakthrough.

Terry Stafford and Chris LeDoux originally recorded this stoic lament of a rodeo pro’s life, but Strait gave the song his own spin by singing with an earthy yet vibrato-driven tenor voice; creating an iconic classic still beloved today.

Stewart used his voice, like other great country artists such as Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings, to explore religion and sinful desires found within country music. Additionally, Stewart explored vices like drinking by recording “Drinkin’ Thing” as an alcoholic’s anthem and adultery story “Empty Glass.”

Raised on radio variety show circuit, Kris Kristofferson became an unconventional country star during his decades-long career. Despite his unruly good looks and wild hairstyles, he was known for being a thoughtful performer who brought new meaning to country lyricism – railing against racism and domestic violence while writing songs such as “Smoky Mountain Rain” which combined elements from 1970s country with Elvis Presley-style rock ‘n’ roll.

3. Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

Country music has been defined by several legendary voices who have left an indelible mark on its history: Johnny Cash with his deep voice captured the hearts of America; Patsy Cline left her mark as she mesmerized audiences with emotive deliveries and poignant blue-collar anthems that tapped into American working-class psyche; Willie Nelson left both popular hits as well as heartfelt deep cuts throughout his long and fruitful career; while Kenny Rogers dominated charts throughout his lengthy and fruitful career with songs that spoke directly to his listeners’ souls; among many more notable vocalists among these names was Willie Nelson who produced both popular hits as well as heartfelt deep cuts throughout his long and successful career; Willie Nelson left a long career creating both popular hits as well as songs that touched listeners deeply – including an impressive song called ‘Blue Collar Anthems’ that touched listeners’ soul; while Kenny Rogers dominated charts throughout his lengthy and fruitful career with songs that touched listeners’ souls – just to name some names of course ; but some names should be mentioned here as they made an impactful mark on country music history with songs that touched listeners’ soulful deep cuts that touched listeners’ hearts – Willie Nelson created both popular hits while Willie Nelson created both popular hits with deep cuts that spoke deeply into American working class anthems which resonated within working-collar Anthems that explored working class American working class anthems that reign as well dominated charts throughout his lengthy and fruitful career! Kenny Rogers who reign dominated charts that reached listeners’.

Rogers took time to rise to country superstardom, but once he did he never looked back. While he enjoyed some success during his time with New Christy Minstrels and First Edition — including their hit country ballad “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town” — his true breakthrough came with 1977 hit Coward of the County which cemented his status as an iconic country singer-songwriter.

Rodney Atkins released a remake a year later that bore similarity to Rogers’ earlier hit song; yet no one involved has ever admitted intentionally copying Rogers.

No matter if it’s Rogers’ original or Atkins’ version, this song remains an exquisite masterpiece that tells an emotionally moving tale. Beginning as the lively theme for an 80s cop show before slowing down and emphasizing tragedy. Strings add an extra emotional impactful edge, as does Rogers’ fiery delivery – never fail to dazzle!

4. If Tomorrow Never Comes by Garth Brooks

No matter your mood, country music heartbreakers provide the ideal soundtrack. Musical trends come and go, yet the greatest country love songs remain popular across generations of country singers and hitmakers. Here is our selection of some of these unforgettable tunes from each generation of country hitmakers.

In the 1980s, country music saw both its greatest legacy artists and rising powerhouses like Garth Brooks emerge. His blend of traditional sounds with emerging narratives set the pace for country music’s development; “If Tomorrow Never Comes” remains one of its most influential songs ever released.

The song describes a man who wakes up each day thinking of their loved one and contemplates the effects of their death the following day. The lyrics are powerfully emotional as he begs not to lose her by failing to express how much he cares. Brooks took inspiration from his own family for this track after his mother had recently died; its music video also captures this emotion-packed track with Brooks surrounded by his wife and daughters in an intimate setting.

This song became a phenomenal hit, reaching number one on the country charts early 1989. A blend of new wave and honky tonk with an intriguing pedal steel riff that added an air of mystery, this tune features haunting lyrics and one of country music’s most unforgettable choruses.

5. Islands in the Stream by Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton made music that made sense to a wide audience long before leg warmers and spandex were mainstream trends. Her biggest hits, ‘Islands in the Stream’ and its successor ‘Water on Your Skin’ were both top five country charts as well as huge pop hits. These delicate yet exquisite tunes featured soft vocal duets combined with silky production and majestic instrumentation for an indelible song experience that remains timeless today.

Rogers and Parton went on to work together after this record, including an extensive tour, duet recordings, and even a best-selling Christmas album; but this collaboration remains their sole major crossover hit.

This song depicts a man who mourns his lost love only to be reunited at her funeral – both are painful situations for any relationship, yet Dolly still managed to bring such comforting message through it all these years later. Her talent as an entertainer made this an ever-popular piece.

Dolly Parton remains one of the greatest country stars ever. Born to rural sharecroppers, she arrived in Nashville as a teenaged orphan and began recording sides for RCA records when she was only thirteen. Through hard work and determination she eventually found a manager who allowed her to perform on radio and TV programs owned by his grocery store chain; these gigs helped build steady income streams; this allowed Dolly to begin writing songs at night when her performances ended.

Dolly found tremendous success with her ‘9 to 5’ movie and album in the ’80s, earning multiple awards along the way. But this song from Dolly’s ‘Smoky Mountain Rain’ set is the epitome of her country-pop blend – mixing 1970s soft production with Elvis-style rock n roll.