How does one define soul? How does one define heartbreak? Answer: With the country music top-ten-hits of all time. It wasn’t easy, but we did it! This list will cover a period from the 1950s to 2011. The artist can be be either male or female, but the focus is American country music artists.
The commonalities that bind them together are: songs or ballads of hard luck, heartbreak, humble beginnings, sincerity, redemption and “help me make it through the night” attitudes. Every piece must fall in place: the lyrics, the music and . . . the voice. If any piece is missing, it did not make the list.
Since every artist is #1, a one to ten list revealing level of achievement, is not appropriate. Every song is also #1. Each artist is listed alphabetically. Are there other artists and songs that could be on the list? Probably, but this is the list we chose. See if you agree.
My first question after I heard Rodney Atkins sing was, “Is he related to Chet Atkins?” Research says, No! (Chet Atkins was a country music favorite of mine).
Rodney Atkins was born in 1969 which makes him 42 years old. He is married to Tammy Jo, who appeared in the video “Farmer’s Daughter. He has three #1 hit records including the 2011 “Take a back Road.” How did he make our country music-top-ten-list? His voice and his music reek of a “cry of the soul.” The depth, honesty, sincerity and heart-felt longing put it on the list. Listen to it!
Born February 16, 1932 and died September 12, 2003, Johnny Cash had a career that span over five decades. His success began in the mid 50s with “Folsom Prison Blues.” Cash was a singer-songwriter, actor and author. Though considered to be a country music singer, he had success in the genres of blues, rock-and-roll and gospel. He received three halls of fame inductions: the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cash is known for his deep bass-baritone voice, somber and humble demeanor. His troubled, but devout Christian experiences caused him to record the entire New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible. He was placed on the country music top-ten-list because of his voice, guitar-playing and lyrics that echoed sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption.
Ray Charles, shortened from Ray Charles Robinson, was a singer of heart-and-soul. It didn’t matter if it were rhythm and blues, blues, or gospel, the listener heard “soul.” His crossover in the 1960s to country music with the album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, established him as a versatile singer.
The album hit both R&B and country music top-ten-hits radio charts all over the country. The #1 hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You” from the album elevated his musical career. It’s intergration of soul and country music bent racial barriers in popular music during the heights of the African-American civil rights movement. Charles was a legend in his own time. He passed away June 10, 2004.
Patsy Cline – “I Fall To Pieces”
Patsy Cline was born in 1932 and died in a private plane crash in 1963 at the young age of 30. She was a pop music crossover who proved to be very successful in the genre of country music. Some believe she is one of the most influential female singers of the 20th century. She made our top-ten-hits list because of her contralto voice, rich tone and deep emotional expression. Her hit “I Fall To Pieces” is popular with audiences everywhere.
Loretta Lynn “Coal Miner’s Daughter”
Loretta Lynn is a singer-songwriter, author and philanthropist. Her daddy really was a coal miner. She married at the age of 13 and became a mother soon afterward. At age 24, she taught herself to play the guitar and used her newly acquired skills to record a song the following year. She has a list of #1 hits. Among them, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” from her best-selling autobiography, and Academy Award winning movie with the same name.
Lynn had a stubborn personality and “pushed the envelope” with lyrics about birth control when it was unpopular to do so. Themes of her songs focused on cheatin’ husbands and pushy mistresses. She found her place on our country music top-ten-hits list with songs of depth, honesty, devotion and words that pulled at your heartstrings.
Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You” Is a Top-Ten-Hits List Favorite
Dolly Parton is an actress, author, singer-songwriter and philanthropist. Her success as a artist has crowned her with the title “The Queen of Country Music.” She is truly a top-ten-list singer!
Parton is the fourth of twelve children, and has described her family during her childhood days as “dirt poor.” Her career as a singer began at age 9, and at 13, she performed on the stage of The Grand Ole Opry. However, her first rise to prominence as a musician was not as a singer, but as a songwriter. She wrote hits for her uncle Bill Owens.
In 1967, Parton joined Porter Waggoner on the Porter Waggoner Show. Working with him for seven years afforded her several opportunities to make the country music top-ten-hits list. In 1974, the professional relationship ended. This prompted Dolly to write the #1 hit song “I Will Always Love You.” This song shows Parton’s ability to massage the heart and capture the soul of any country music lover.
Top-Ten-Hits Singer Charlie Pride with “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”
Charlie Pride is one of the few African-American singers to have immeasurable success in a white-dominated country music world. It was not an easy “climb to success” for Pride. From 1958 to 1969, he recorded several songs, but not one of them reached the charts. But in 1965, he signed with Chet Atkins and RCA Records, and had his first song to chart at #9.
Between 1969 and 1970, Pride racked up several #1 hits. His biggest one came in 1971 with “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin.”
This was the first time I laid eyes on him, and I was astounded to find him a man of color. He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award that same year, and the Top Vocalist of the Year Award the following year.
His smooth, silky, baritone voice got him a spot on our country music top-ten-hits list.
Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”
Singer-songwriter Kenny Rogers is a man of many talents: actor, photographer, record producer and entreprenuer.
His hits cover several genres, though country music is the most noted and successful one. Most of us recall Rogers and The First Edition’s charted song “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” which definitely is not country.
Rogers has more than 60 top-40-hit singles, with 25 reaching #1. His song “Lucille” rapidly climbed the country music’s top-ten-hits list and stayed #1 for months in 12 countries. The “Gambler” was also a #1 international hit record. Success courted him at many levels.
In 1986, readers of USA Today and People magazines voted Rogers the “Favorite Singer of All Times.” His music career span over 50 years.
The message of the lyrics of “The Gambler” got him on our list. He speaks of a gambler, but it is really a message that each of us can carry into life–”know when and how to look at a situation, and determine if it is best to stay with it, or . . . . move on.”
Hank Williams Has the Voice of a Top-Ten-Hits List
Hank Williams was one of the greatest country music singers of all time; but because of his troubled life with alcohol, morphine and pain-killers, he only actively shared his music with the world for 29 years. He was born September 17, 1923 and died January 1, 1953. The world mourned this man.
Williams made a major impact on country music. His voice says it all. You listen, hear his message and declare it to be true. This is the strength of sincerity that his voice registers. The voice and lyrics foretold the turmoil churning within him. He lived his music.
Williams had eleven #1 hit records between 1948 and 1953. Among them, the one you will hear right now: “Your Cheatin’ Heart!” A top-ten-hits list special!
Tammy Wynette Stands By Her Man with a Top-Ten-Hits Song
Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” was one of the biggest selling hit singles by a woman in the history of country music.
It made our country music top-ten-hits list because it touched the hearts of many people. As with several of her lyrics, it dealt with loneliness and male-female relationships. It came at a time when women were seeking mental and emotional independence, and “rang true” with the struggle they were experiencing in achieving it.
Wynette had seventeen #1 hit records during the 1960s and 1970s. Her success onstage did not parallel her life offstage. It was tumultuous! She was married five times, had personal public challenges, but finally found happiness with George Richey (her 5th husband), and remained with him until her death in 1998.
Written by Dr. Mamie Smith