Country music has produced many legendary performers. What songs do you think of first when you hear the names Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, John Denver and Kenny Rogers? They are some of the most iconic country performers in history, and here are the signature songs for which they will be forever remembered.
Dolly Parton: "9 to 5"
"I Will Always Love You" and "Jolene" singer Dolly Parton is a country music legend and one of the most revered songwriters of all time. She starred in the movie 9 to 5 and had an infectious hit song of the same name, which became an anthem for office workers in the '80s. The Dollywood theme park co-owner recently made a $1 million donation to help fund research that led to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, so she's doing more than "getting by," as the lyrics to "9 to 5" claim.
Hank Williams: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
Hank Williams was one of the most noteworthy singers of the previous century. Some of his biggest hits include "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." Rolling Stone placed "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" at number 111 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Williams passed away in 1953 at the age of 29.
Patsy Cline: "I Fall to Pieces"
Patsy Cline was one of the most influential vocalists of the previous century and one of the first country artists to have crossover hits on the pop charts. Her first song to top the charts was the classic "I Fall to Pieces." The 1961 song has been covered by numerous artists, from Aaron Neville and Trisha Yearwood to Cyndi Lauper.
John Denver: "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"
John Denver had hits like "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," "Rocky Mountain High" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders." "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" was written by John Martin Sommers and first appeared on Denver's 1974 album Back Home Again. A live version of the song topped both Billboard's Hot Country Singles and Hot 100 charts. Sadly, Denver lost his life in a plane accident in 1997 at the age of 53.
Johnny Cash: "I Walk the Line"
Johnny Cash, aka "The Man in Black," was a country legend with hits like "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line." The latter is a 1956 song that inspired the title for the Cash biopic Walk the Line, in which Joaquin Phoenix earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as the Man in Black. Toward the end of his career, Cash covered haunting versions of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails and "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode. Cash passed away in 2003 at the age of 71.
Loretta Lynn: "Coal Miner's Daughter"
Loretta Lynn has a career that spans over six decades. She is known as the "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "The First Lady of Country." "Coal Miner's Daughter" was released in 1970 and has been covered by numerous other artists, including a collaboration with Lynn, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert. Sissy Spacek won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Lynn in 1980's Coal Miner's Daughter.
Willie Nelson: "On the Road Again"
Singer and activist Willie Nelson is one of the most recognizable faces in country music. Two of his most famous songs are "On the Road Again" and "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." The former 1980 song won Nelson a Grammy the next year for Best Country Song. Nelson has appeared in over 30 movies and is an advocate for biofuels and the legalization of marijuana.
George Strait: "Unwound"
George Strait is known as "The King of Country" and is notable for trying to take country music back to its roots in the 1980s. The "Unwound" singer has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the most successful country artists in history. 1981's "Unwound" was Strait's first top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
Kenny Rogers: "The Gambler"
"The Gambler" singer Kenny Rogers recorded a popular duet with Dolly Parton titled "Islands in the Stream." "The Gambler" was written by Don Schlitz and recorded by several artists before Rogers made it a crossover hit in 1978. Rogers passed away in 2020.
Tammy Wynette: "Stand by Your Man"
Tammy Wynette is best known for her crossover hit song "Stand by Your Man." Not only was the 1968 signature song the biggest hit of Wynette's career, it topped CMT's list of Top 100 Country Songs. Wynette passed away in 1998 at the age of 55.