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Holly George-Warren

Holly George-Warren is the author of a dozen books, including The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang) and the award-winning Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life & Times of Gene Autry. She has written for Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, and the New York Times, and she coproduced the Grammy-nominated box set RESPECT. She teaches at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and at SUNY-New Paltz and is at work on a biography of Alex Chilton.

 

Abstract:

"Dolly Does Deflowered Damsels: How Dolly Parton's Fallen-Woman Songcraft Took Her to the Top"

By taking a look at (and listen to) some of Parton’s great story songs, we’ll see how she’s carried on Anglo/Irish ballad traditions while carving out a new place for herself (and women) in the upper echelons of country and popular music hierarchy.

Baby Please Don’t Go: The City as Women's Ruin in American Roots Music

From the traditional “Katie Cruel” to Poison’s “Fallen Angel,” female characters in song tend to fare poorly when they strike out solo into urban spaces. The transition from the country to the city, in lyrics, is a dead giveaway that by the end of the song, the woman who stepped off the Greyhound bus alone on the Sunset Strip (or any analogue of that) will be dead, drinking alone, using drugs, turning tricks, pregnant out of wedlock, or some combination thereof. Conversely, songs that begin with a woman in the straits described are likely to reveal by the end that the whole problem is that once, long ago, her purer, fresher self made the damning decision – whether out of ambition, financial need, or the ever-popular duping by a cad who promised marriage - to head for the bright lights on her own.

Focusing on songs performed by women and using audio and video examples, this panel will discuss the enduring popularity of this creepy cautionary storyline in American roots music, its origins in Anglo-European balladry (whose writers arguably had genuine need to keep their women down on the farm) and contemporary variations on it.