Old Country music songs

| June 5, 2003 | Associated Press Staff

CMT picks 100 greatest country music songs

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - George and Tammy are there. So are Johnny and Hank, and Waylon and Willie.

But a ranking of the top 100 songs in country music history is bound to contain a few surprises, and the new one by Country Music Television is no exception.

Is Tammy Wynette's 1968 classic "Stand by Your Man" truly the best country song of all time? Should Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" rank that high (No. 6)? Is the Eagles' "Desperado" really a country song? And where's Merle Haggard's "The Fightin' Side of Me"?

"Everyone has personal favorites that didn't make the list, " said Kaye Zusmann, CMT's vice president of program development and production. "Everyone will look and say, `How can that not make it on there?"'

The list was revealed in a Wednesday concert on the eve of Nashville's annual Fan Fair country music festival. The two-hour concert will be broadcast on CMT at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday. It'll be preceded by a four-hour documentary about the songs.

The process began last summer when CMT asked music critics, historians and journalists to identify the genre's greatest songs. They came up with 600 titles.

That list went to voting members of the Country Music Association, which consists of songwriters, musicians, singers and other industry insiders, who whittled it down to 100 songs and ranked them.

The criteria were loose. Statistics such as weeks on the chart or total sales didn't matter, Zusmann said, only the "emotional, visceral connection people have to a song."

That figured heavily in the top choice, "Stand by Your Man, " Wynette's plea to women to forgive their wayward men.

"It's the prototypical country song, " Zusmann said. "It has everything."

George Jones, Wynette's husband from 1969 to '75 and duet partner, said Tuesday that "Stand by Your Man" touched both men and women, especially with the Vietnam War pulling couples apart.

"When you're away from home, it enters your mind, you know, " he said. "You hope she's not fooling around, and you're missing home."

Jones, who has the No. 2 song on the list with "He Stopped Loving Her Today, " said Wynette's signature song "belongs where it is."

Co-written by Wynette and producer Billy Sherrill, it was a hit on country and pop radio as the feminist movement was taking off in the late '60s, and Wynette took some heat for it.

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