BobbyCast Recap: Bobby Chats With Ken Burns About New ‘Country Music’ Documentary

This conversation was so interesting!

Written by Grace Lenehan Vaughn
BobbyCast Recap: Bobby Chats With Ken Burns About New ‘Country Music’ Documentary
Ken Burns; Photo credit: Evan Barlow

On episode #200 of the BobbyCast, Bobby Bones talked with Ken Burns, established filmmaker behind the new PBS documentary, Country Music. Bobby had recently finished the documentary when he talked to Burns, which allowed for a candid conversation about the film.

During their conversation, Burns talked at length about the history of country music and what the genre means to the world, but one of the main themes of the conversation was the profound power of country music to bring people together by telling vulnerable stories.

“Most of what country music is is addressing really universal, human emotions, and it’s doing it elegantly,” Burns says. “Harlan Howard said, ‘Three chords and the truth.’ He was saying it isn’t as sophisticated as classical, it isn’t as complicated as classical and some forms of jazz, you can hear the lyrics, but that truth part? It’s right, straight to the heart.”

Bobby and Burns then went on to talk about some of the moments in the film, including learning about Willie Nelson’s early struggles to make it into the spotlight and the history behind Johnny Cash’s famous “Walk The Line,” which was originally written as a promise to stay faithful to his first wife, Vivian. Bobby then brought up one scene in the film that, admittedly, made him cry, which was the moment that Vince Gill sang “Go Rest High On That Mountain” at George Jones’ funeral.

“In a business filled with great human beings, he might stand out as one of the best of that crop,” Burns says of Vince Gill. “He’s beloved by everybody. George Jones calls him sweet pea. When George dies, at his memorial service at the Opry, Vince can’t get through it. He’s overcome with emotion. Patty Loveless is there trying to help him, everybody in the audience is weeping. It’s a telling, telling moment, because I think this is the proof — that it exposes essential human emotions that we all feel. A good country song, as Charley Pride says, might make you cry, but you’ll feel better for crying.”

Country Music; Photo courtesy of PBS
Country Music; Photo courtesy of PBS

The conversation between Bobby and Burns also covers other points in the film, including Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner’s relationship, Dwight Yoakam being the ‘coolest’ country star, and the rise of Garth Brooks. Burns also speaks on how country music is really a mix of other genres, including blues and gospel, which serves as a great metaphor for our country and the world.

“We’re so deeply divided today, and right there in the great art of country music is the reminder that there’s no ‘them,’ there’s only ‘us,’” Burns says. “We’re all 99.9% the same, and the differences don’t imagine much.”

Make sure to tune into episode #200 of the BobbyCast to hear more from Bobby and Burns’ conversation.