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country music

Karen Cox (Submitted)

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' 16-hour examination of country is airing this week on PBS, and one artist featured in the series hopes it will help reframe the conversation about the genre’s origins.

African American musician Rhiannon Giddens spoke in the series's first episode, which focused on the roots of country music.

Eric Lagg / Courtesy of the artist

“Old Town Road” is still riding the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100. Lil Nas X’s breakout country rap hit broke the previous 16-week record held by Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito.”

Now, it’s 18 weeks and four remixes in, with little sign of the phenomenon ending.

WPLN’s Rachel Iacovone spoke with Billboard’s senior director of charts, Keith Caulfield, to try to understand how Lil Nas X and his “Old Town Road” have managed to do it.

Chas Sisk / WPLN

Belmont University and PBS are teaming up to teach students the story of Nashville's most famous industry, with a new curriculum to go along with an upcoming eight-part documentary on country music.

Developers say the lessons include some surprising subjects.

Stephen Jerkins / WPLN

Sometimes, when Pierre Tra works the night shift at a nursing home in southeast Nashville, he’ll step off into a corner and record himself singing into his cell phone, to store it for later.

That’s how he captures ideas. Peter, as he calls himself now, is a quiet 63-year-old and a musician in his free time. That in itself is not unusual in Nashville, but few have lived the kind of trajectory that Peter has.

Photos Courtesy of the Artists

The most commercially successful music to come out of Nashville this year mainly sounded like a male voice in a mainstream country song. But for those who listened a little more closely to the sounds of the city, there were creative country women making music off the charts while surprising scenes in other genres were popping up far away from Music Row. 

Courtesy of CMT

Mainstream country music has a problem with women.

Its most powerful platform — commercial radio — is already known for its dearth of female artists, and that issue exploded this month when, for the first time in its history, Billboard's Country Airplay chart did not feature a single female artist in the top 20 songs.

Some in the industry were embarrassed. Others just shrugged it off. 

Donn Jones/CMA

Roy Clark, one of the hosts of the country music variety show Hee Haw and a legendary Nashville musician, has died.

Clark was 85 years old and died in Tulsa, Okla., of complications from pneumonia, according to his publicist.

Peter Gilstrap / Courtesy of Ronda Sherley

It’s a January morning in 1968. There are 1,000 convicts in mess hall #2 at Folsom Prison. They’re hooting, hollering, clapping, pounding fists on metal tables.

The object of their excitement is Johnny Cash. He’s onstage under the harsh fluorescent lights, standing tall behind a nicotine veil of smoke. Down in the front row, there’s an inmate with a chiseled face and dark pompadour piled high, sucking on a Pall Mall. He's California state prisoner A597959C — just another face in the crowd.

Keturah Davis / Courtesy of Joshua Bishop

In 1964, a Japanese country singer named Tomi Fujiyama performed on the Grand Ole Opry, right after Johnny Cash. She had no idea that someday there would be a movie about her life and her quest to get back on the Opry stage — or how long it would take to get there.

This weekend, Fujiyama is back in Nashville to celebrate the official release of that film.

courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame

One of Nashville's most prolific hit-makers died Sunday. Mel Tillis spent the last year dealing with intestinal issues, according to his publicist. He died at a hospital in Ocala, Florida, at age 85.