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Janis and Patsy

Country Musings by Robert Loy, May 2003

If you think about it, Janis Joplin and Patsy Cline had a lot in common. Both were musical trailblazers, women in traditionally male musical fields. They both knew more than their share of heartache and died way before their times.

One other thing they have in common is that neither Patsy nor Janis - for all their oceans of talent - would ever make it in today's music business. They'd never get a chance. Because although both of them were arguably the greatest singers of their generations, neither of them were good-looking enough to model for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, and as we all know that to paraphrase Billy Crystal "It is better to look good than to sing good." Especially in today's music biz. Nowadays your singing ability doesn't matter, but you better be drop-dead gorgeous (or at least have the last name Tillis.)

Patsy actually might have a chance. Unlike Janis, she was actually an attractive woman. If Cline went on a diet and did pilates or something to lose that little bit of baby fat, that was okay in the 50's and 60's, but unforgivable today, she might get a record deal. But somehow I can't see Patsy playing along with such nonsense.

And I definitely don't see her cavorting around topless (well, topless except for a hat) as Shania Twain does in a recent issue of FHM magazine (page 104 of the May 2003 issue, for those of you who want to double check my research.)

At first blush, this sounds like a sexist situation, but do you really think a guy with a face like Buck Owens' could get a record deal in this day and age? Today we want pretty boy models in cowboy hats not unsavory-looking characters like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Yeah, I know they were geniuses, but they were no Tim McGraw when it came to looks. It would never play on CMT.

To the record company suits who blame plummeting CD sales solely on file-swapping web sites, might I suggest that before you spend all that money suing Napster clones, you trying concentrating a little bit more on quality music and less on beef and cheesecake.