Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Gene Pitney and Buck Owens

Think you don't know Gene Pitney? Think again. Even a quick foray into oldies radio will yield one of his songs: "Every Breath I Take," "24 Hours From Tulsa," "True Love Never Runs Smooth," "It Hurts To Be In Love," "Town Without Pity," "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance." Pitney strung together an impressive series of hits in the early-'60s, using a voice that was second only to Roy Orbison in bringing operatic drama to American pop music. Though a friend to The Rolling Stones, the British Invasion more or less muscled him off the charts but his career–like early Motown singles, Phil Spector productions, and girl group pop–is as good a proof as any that rock and roll didn't go into hibernation when Elvis went into the army. Pitney, 65, was found dead in a Welsh hotel room last night. He was on tour.

Think you know Buck Owens? Think again. When Owens died last, the headline on CNN.com read "Hee Haw Country Star Buck Owens Dies At 76." Fair enough, but there was a lot more to Owens's career than his long stint as the genial host of corny country variety show. With Merle Haggard, Owens pioneered the Bakersfield Sound, a tough, honky tonk-friendly alternative to the polished records coming out of Nashville in the '60s. There may be a more enjoyable hour of country music than Rhino's The Very Best Of Buck Owens Vol. 1, but I don't know it. With his Buckaroos, Owens sang about heartbreak with a smile on his face, had one hit after another, and then bowed out of the game to pursue other interests (including, yes, Hee Haw.) He never stopped performing, however, playing his last concert the night he died.


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