All-star tribute to Patsy Cline

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Sept. 9, 2003 at 6:45 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- An all-star lineup of singers -- including Natalie Cole, Amy Grant, Norah Jones, k.d. lang and Martina McBride -- pay tribute to Patsy Cline in a new CD, 40 years after the legendary singer was killed in a plane crash at 30.

Cline -- who would have been 71 on Sept. 8 -- died in March 1963 in a crash that also killed country stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. As with other stars who died young, the tragedy intensified interest in Cline's music at the time -- and may well be a significant contributing factor to the enduring popularity of her catalogue.

Hollywood has paid homage to Cline from time to time. Jessica Lange earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as Cline in the 1985 feature "Sweet Dreams," and Beverly D'Angelo played Cline in "Coal Miner's Daughter" -- the 1980 feature in which Sissy Spacek won the Oscar for her performance as Loretta Lynn.

There have been various reissues over the years of "Patsy Cline's 12 Greatest Hits," including a new one that is being released simultaneuosly with "Remembering Patsy Cline," the new all-star tribute CD -- which features Cole's cover of "I Fall to Pieces," Grant's take on "Back in Baby's Arms" and Jones' recording of "Why Can't He Be You?"

None of the contributors -- who also include Diana Krall ("Crazy"), Michelle Branch ("Strange") and Lee Ann Womack ("She's Got You") -- evokes Cline's singing style, with the possible exception of k.d. lang, who sings "Leavin' on Your Mind." Cole and Jones actually bring a jazz-pop taste to the project, and Michelle Branch brings out a bit of the country flavor that sometimes informs her pop sound.

No one will ever know what musical territories Cline might have explored, but lang told United Press International that Cline's record producer Owen Bradley told her Cline was "adamant" about not going too far away from country towards pop.

"She was always nervous about background singers and strings," said lang.

Still, lang said, Cline has proved to be an influence on all kinds of singers -- pop as well as country. She said some contemporary singers are influenced more or less second-hand, by older singers who were influenced by Cline and have passed it on.

"I can hear it really clearly in some," she said. "The generation after me learned it from Linda (Ronstadt) or Emmylou (Harris), not Patsy."

Cline was a major influence on lang's music, but lang said she came by her appreciation for Cline almost by accident -- when she heard the music in a TV ad for a greatest hits package.

"I think that is the funniest thing, because I hated country music," said lang. "I came from an art school background."

Once she let go of her predeliction against country music, lang said she was able to listen to Cline in a new way.

"Then I began to understand the irony of how she delivered the songs, as a feminist, with a sense of humor," she said. "Then there was just this straight ahead emotional delivery. She was really one of the first singers I had a real crush on where I just really appreciated what a vocalist does."

Before long, lang had become a student as well as a fan of Cline's music.

"When I was in my 20s, it was really her that inspired my initiation in the professional music business," said lang. "My first band was called The Reclines, so it was her approach to country music that sparked my idea of hybriding pop and music."

Lang said Cline's influence goes well beyond the obvious influence on women in country music.

"She was influential in every genre," said lang. "She was just huge, huge, huge. It would be along the lines of Hank Williams."

"Remembering Patsy Cline" also features Terri Clark ("Walkin' After Midnight"), Rebecca Lynn Howard ("You're Stronger Than Me") Patty Griffin ("Faded Love"), Jessi Alexander ("So Wrong") and McBride ("Sweet Dreams").

The newly released "Patsy Cline's 12 Greatest Hits" is a remastered version of the classic package produced by Owen Bradley. Originally released 36 years ago, the album has sold nearly 10 million copies.

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