I was a Buck Owens fan long before I knew it. In my sheltered, urban,
Northeast childhood, “Act Naturally” was a Beatles song, released in
1965, when I was fifteen – the flip side to the most covered song in record
history, “Yesterday” – and the anthem, sung along with Ringo Starr, for my
youthful (and not-so-youthful) romantic failures.
Act Naturally (J. Russell – V. Morrison)
They’re gonna put me in the movies
they’re gonna make a big star out of me
We’ll make a film about a man that’s sad and lonely
and all I gotta do is act naturally
The biggest star in country music in the 1960s made not the slightest
dent on my psyche. Not when he achieved 15 #1 hits in a row, nor when
he adopted the red, white and blue guitar, that became his trademark at the
end of that decade, to show his patriotism, while I concentrated on Viet Nam
It took me a few decades to realize that Buck Owens had his first #1
sing the tune together). My ignorance was due in part to city-folk bias
against country music, which also kept me from becoming a fan of the
Washington Post Buck Owens obituary, March 26, 2006)
I missed out on a lot of fun and good honky-tonk music — even after
I became a big country music fan in the late ’70s (thanks to a few friends
who played in country-rock bands). Buck went into a voluntary retirement,
just when I would have most appreciated his brand of guitar-driven, pared-
down, strong beat, “American music”.
Streets of Bakersfield Lyrics
You don’t know me but you don’t like me
You say you care less how I feel
But how many of you that sit and judge me
Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?
It wasn’t until he recorded “Streets of Bakersfield,” in 1988, with country star
(and actor) Dwight Yokam (on the Buenas Noches ..” album), that I finally
focused on this remarkable man and musician, who seemed to enjoy himself
so much, even when singing about mean streets and broken hearts — and
even though he had to buck the sappy trend in Nashville country music, to create
his own “Bakersfield sound” in blue-collar California.
In 2000, newer generations got to hear Buck Owens sing “Act Naturally” again,
is sadly ironic that it took his death yesterday, to get millions of us to cue up
one of Buck’s albums and enjoy his music today. Buck Owens deserves to
be remembered far beyond the Country Music community. He is surely
still doing what comes most naturally to him — plucking that patriotic guitar,
tapping his foot, and smiling. My foot is tapping, too. Seventy-six years is
not enough for us, Buck, but thank you for taking us along your journey.
You can find a 27-page, multimedia bio, at Buck’s official
p.s. This site with “Act Naturally” lyrics, has this sad link:
March 26, 2006
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