Patsy Cline was a bigger-than-life country singer who lived her own “sweet dreams” and died tragically in a plane crash well before she had fulfilled the full expanse of her musical promise.
This book is a collection of essays relating to Patsy’s life and legend, including such diverse aspects as the cultural milieu that surrounded and influenced her, her rough brand of feminism, her influence on country music, and her posthumous reincarnation as an icon.
Patsy grew up poor in a dysfunctional family (“hardworking but fractured” is how Bill C. Malone describes it in
"Patsy Cline and the Transformation of the Working Class South") in and around Winchester, Virginia, a community held together by a large orchard industry. She began singing in little clubs, beer joints and honky-tonks in the Winchester area in her teens. She gradually learned to use her rich, dominating vocal style to move up as a musician, eventually recording and singing on the Grand Ole Opry and commanding unheard of fees. Editor Hofstra and Mike Foreman, in
"Legacy and Legend," paint a portrait of Patsy as the local girl who made good but stayed bad; her own townspeople booed her and caused her to lament, “Why do people in Winchester treat me like this?” It could be partly owing to the fact that, as Beth Bailey notes in
"Patsy Cline and the Problem of Respectability," “Teenaged Patsy went to movies in Winchester with her hair in rollers.”
Part of the reason for Patsy’s adoration among farflung fans and her rejection by her homies was undoubtedly her frank, outspoken style and her refusal to be cornered by being female in a business dominated by men. As soon as she figured out how the game was played, she used men for her advantage instead of being used by them. Though she was no beauty, she flaunted her outré female attributes. Her cowgirl outfits with bare midriff and short saucy skirts were hardly designed to please the Sunday-go-to-meeting types, and she sang songs with decidedly sexual overtones. It was feminism, country style; Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, and Cline were paving the way for a new generation of independent women in country music.
One unusual feature of the Cline legend is that after her death, her popularity--the legacy of the songs she sang and the booming, defiant way she sang them--increased, so that in 1973, ten years after her death, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 1975, Loretta Lynn did a retrospective album of some of Cline’s hit songs. In 1992, her face appeared on a US postage stamp. Joli Jensen (“Becoming a Postage Stamp”) opines that Cline “can now represent country music’s lost authenticity.” Many today view Cline as an iconoclastic artist who became, in her own distinctive way, an icon.