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The Life and Work of Patsy Cline

Conference Panel

Reviewed by Christopher Hess, Fri., March 14, 2003

SXSW Live Shot
Photo By Gary Miller

The Life and Work of Patsy Cline

Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 14 If Ringo Starr were to sit in on a panel discussing the life and work of John Lennon, sharing anecdotes and insights into the Beatles' studio workings and personal interactions, then close the discussion playing along with a recording of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," he'd no doubt be well-received. It'd be a strange sight, though, to say the least. Patsy Cline is not John Lennon -- she's much bigger in many ways. As panelist George Hamilton IV, longtime guitarist for Cline, related, "When it came to Patsy clearing a place for women in country music, she was what I call a pre-feminist woman. She didn't open doors; she kicked them down." The songs remain some of the strongest country classics; "Walking After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces," and "Crazy" are milestones in the evolution of a genre, marking the point in time when a woman was finally considered an artist and star in her own right. Another panelist, Margaret Jones, author of the definitive 1994 biography, Patsy: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline, attempted to address Cline's legend on a larger level: as an incarnation of classic mythology, Kyron, the half-man half-horse son of Zeus, who embodies a type of the wounded healer. She used this analogy as a framework to present the wounds suffered by Cline in her childhood, mainly the sexual abuse by her father, an analogy that was almost entirely lost on those in attendance here. Instead, the audience saw the bass used in those classic recordings and wanted to hear it. After a quick listen to Willie Nelson's demo of "Crazy," they played the original Patsy Cline recording of the song. Then Harold Bradley, panelist and veteran member of Cline's band, sat and played that old skinny six-string bass along with that recording, giving us a clear insight into what made those records sound like they did. Not only was it appropriate, it was fantastic, and he got a well-deserved standing ovation for it.
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