To say that Patsy Cline was a formidable talent, would be an understatement to not only her achievements as the emotive singer she was, but also her largely influential and steadfast opinions and determination to break down gender, class, and genre barriers.
Cline was a prodigiously talented vocalist, who embraced country music and orchestrated pop sounds in the wake of rock & roll’s emergence during her career. Heartbreak, loss, acceptance, and bitterness pulsate through each inflection of Cline’s music, from the twangy resonance of the steel guitar and emotive string sections, to the percussion and sweet backup vocals of the Jordanaires (Elvis’s backup singers). Having started her professional career as early as 14-years-old, Cline was regularly singing in bars and supper clubs, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry when she was 16, and undoubtedly helped create the famous country-pop Nashville sound with her classic hits like “Walking After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and of course, the Willie Nelson-penned “Crazy.” While some will say that Cline abandoned any country leanings and fully embraced a pop sound when she changed her singing style towards the late 50s, her innate ability to mesmerize audiences with her iconic voice are inarguable.
Still, her musical and cultural impact wouldn’t reach its zenith until years after her passing. Cline boldly bucked female conventions of the 1950s with her fashion sense, her decision to divorce, her support of fellow female artists, and her assertive ambition to get opportunities equal to those of her male Nashville peers, such as the same kind of headliner billing and radio airplay, particularly after breaking free of her unfavorable contract with Four Star Records. Her story truly exceeds her musical accomplishments. She is in a rare class of women who simply set out to achieve their dreams and through those efforts left an indelible mark.
She brought dignity to a woman’s feelings; the way that she sang with such feeling — and with such dignity — allowed any woman to feel their feelings count. She’s sold millions of records, and in 1973, a decade after her fateful death, she made history as the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Cline’s impact in both personal and cultural terms illuminate how she arrived at a pivotal moment in the evolution of American culture and, with Decca Records producer Owen Bradley, synthesized country, pop and rock in a new way, and left her undeniable mark on American music and history.