Couch Potato Pickings

I first watched this Robert Altman film just before I took a trip to America’s Music City last year. I hoped it would provide some interesting background and history.

It’s all very Altman I can tell you that – episodal, with multiple storylines and an improvised feel, providing a window on a place and an era (the 1970s to be precise).

It depicts the country music industry and also presents a picture of US politics at the time.

While the movie doesn’t name the stars, it’s widely agreed that certain characters are based on certain big country names, including Roy (the King of country music) Acuff, Porter (inspiration for I Will Always Love You) Wagoner, Loretta (You’re Lookin’ at Country) Lynn, Charley (Kiss an Angel Good Morning) Pride, Kris (Me and Bobby McGee) Kristofferson and Lynn (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden ) Anderson.

If you know nothing about country music and are completely unfamiliar with these names, then you may need to do your research in order to fully appreciate the movie, although I was pretty ignorant about all things Nashville when I saw it, and still enjoyed it.

For me though, this film was only a small part of my Nashville prep. I also took in a handful of country star biopics before I went, plus a few fictional movies about singer songwriters with the Nashville dream. They certainly made my trip all the richer.

Coal Miner’s Daughter

Sissy Spacek won an Oscar for her portrayal of Kentucky girl Loretta Lynn and her famous rags to riches story.

Love Can Build A Bridge

Mother and daughter duo Wynonna and Naomi Judd (Naomi is Ashley‘s mum) were huge in the 80s.

Blue Valley Songbird

This is not Dolly Parton‘s story (I’m waiting patiently for that). It’s a fictitious tale about a troubled singer, but shows off Dolly’s two big talents – singer and songwriter – brilliantly. For Dolly playing herself, see Love Can Build a Bridge, Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story, and Get to the Heart: The Barbara Mandrell Story.

Holiday in Your Heart

The story of child prodigy LeAnn Rimes who released her first single at the tender age of 13.

Sweet Dreams

Before her premature death, poor Patsy Cline worried about an early demise, and when she was badly injured in a car crash shortly after releasing her song I Fall to Pieces she joked about what might happen to her following her next single – CrazyJessica Lange was Oscar-nominated for her role in this biopic.

Walk the Line

Walk the LineJoaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are fabulous as Johnny Cash and June Carter in this award-winning movie.

Shania: A Life in Eight Albums

Not the greatest of movies, but it does provide an insight into this Canadian singer’s Nashville journey.

Shut Up and Sing

When Natalie Maines from Texan trio The Dixie Chicks spoke out against George Bush at a gig in London’s Shepherd’s Bush a few years ago, she received death threats from people in certain US states. This documentary charts the band’s emotional journey through this difficult phase in their career.

Honeysuckle Rose

A fictional story about a country singer struggling to make it big. It stars country legend Willie Nelson.

Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story

She died tragically in 1991 but Dottie West was a groundbreaking artist who was the first woman to win a Grammy for a Country Vocal Performance. She was close friends with Patsy Cline and was Kenny Rogers‘ duet partner for a number of years. Kenny stars as himself in the movie.

Get to the Heart: The Barbara Mandrell Story

She was country when country wasn’t cool. Barbara Mandrell has had a long career as one of country’s best loved female singers, even though her career suffered a setback when she had a serious car accident in the 80s.

This is Elvis

He’s usually associated with rock n’ roll, but this Tennessee boy spent loads of time in Nashville as well as Memphis, and some of his songs have the Nashville sound.

Stand By Your Man

Definitely one of the queens of country, Tammy Wynette is best known for this song. She lived a very troubled life, plagued by illness and disastrous relationships. I haven’t seen this TV movie, so I don’t know if it portrays these aspects of her life. If anyone out there has seen it, please let me know.