meta-script5 Female Artists Creating The Future Of Country Music: Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks & More | GRAMMY.com
5 Female Artists Creating The Future Of Country Music
(Clockwise from left) Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks, Hannah Juanita, the Local Honeys, Summer Dean

Photos:  Mickey Bernal/Getty Images; Jason Davis/Getty Images; TK, Mose Wilson, Lia Callie Photography; Scott Slusher

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5 Female Artists Creating The Future Of Country Music: Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks & More

Country music’s view of women is often reductive, yet a new generation of female country singers are breaking the mold. They've cracked open the notoriously slow-to-change genre, nudging it toward aural, queer, gender and racial diversity.

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2023 - 02:21 pm

In 2015, radio consultant Keith Hill provoked outrage by saying out loud what had long been an unwritten rule for much of country music radio: Women are like the tomatoes in a lettuce salad, they should be sprinkled in sparsely. Despite Hill’s comments and the country music industry's often restrictive and prescriptive attitudes, women are essential to the genre and its growth.

Female country singers have broken the rules and fought sexist expectations since the genre's inception. Just five years after the first country music recording, the Carter Family cut their first album — often considered country music’s "Big Bang" — at the 1927 Bristol Sessions. In 1952, Kitty Wells' "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" placed the blame for unfaithful women squarely on the shoulders of philandering men in a retort so resounding, hardly anyone remembers the song that inspired it. 

A decade later, Bobbie Gentry scored a No. 1 in 1967 and three GRAMMY Awards with a torpid ballad about apathy and suicide ("Ode to Billie Joe"). Loretta Lynn routinely took a defiantly feminist stance (although she rejected the label) in her music and had her song "The Pill,"about how birth control pills liberated women, banned from most radio play. Throughout her career, Dolly Parton's hit songs have dealt with gender-neutral gut-wrenching poverty and pretty much every aspect of womanhood.

Contemporary acts continue the work of their forebearers, pushing the genre toward inclusivity and demanding respect in the male-dominated genre. Stars like Shania Twain and Faith Hill followed by Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Micky Guyton and Maren Morris have deftly charted their own stories, rejecting the genre's rigid stereotypes. Allison Russell, Rhiannon Giddens, Brennen Leigh and Sierra Ferrell (and many other artists) have shifted country music sonically, bringing bluegrass, Western swing, blues, and traditional folk-inspired tunes back into broad circulation.

Together, they represent a new generation of female country singers who have cracked open the notoriously slow-to-change genre, nudging it toward aural, queer, gender and racial diversity. These musicians aren’t waiting for radio DJs to slot them in between male stars; they’re leveraging social media, YouTube and Spotify to reach an audience tired of hearing the same old sad and exploitive songs. Avoiding stereotypes and the neat niches country music carved for them, these women sing about motherhood, wifehood, womanhood, sex, hard work, struggle and loss and yes, love and heartbreak too — but on their terms.

While it’s by no means a comprehensive list, here are five women essential to the future of country music who you may not have heard of, but should know. 

Summer Dean

On her 43rd birthday, the Ameripolitan Music Awards named Summer Dean 2023’s "Honky Tonk Female."The best-known twangy, danceable honky tonk-style tracks go to men, but Dean flips their signature bravado on its head with brash songs about a single woman’s empowerment. 

Since her debut EP Unladylike, Dean’s drawn power and inspiration from her own experience, singing about both the joy and sadness in not following social expectations of womanhood. "I’m all alone / Just a woman on her own / Writing songs with no baby and no vow," she sings, neatly skewering country music’s preconceived ideals of a woman’s path in life on "Picket Fence," which opens her 2021 album Bad Romantic.

Dean, a seventh-generation Texan, started her country music career in her late 30s after years of teaching elementary school. Making up for lost time, she’s collected accolades fast: A wildly successful duet with Canadian Western music heavyweight Colter Wall; opening gigs for Nikki Lane, Marty Stuart, and Charley Crockett; and her own co-headlining tour this spring. This summer, Dean will release her second full-length album, The Biggest Life. 

Jaime Wyatt

Sometimes Jaime Wyatt’s backstory sounds like any number of gritty, sad country songs — she served most a year in L.A. County jail for robbing her heroin dealer, struggled with addiction, and lost a best friend to drug overdose. Although her experiences feed her music, Wyatt uses them to illuminate relatable, meaningful stories that are anything but cliché.

Wyatt's 2017 debut EP, Felony Blues, draws heavily from her experiences with addiction and jail. Moving beyond those early experiences, she unpacks them, her sexuality and outlook on life in her Shooter Jennings-produced Neon Cross, released in 2020. Thriving on Wyatt’s smoky, intoxicating voice, the album’s title track ruminates on the hazy purgatory of nights lost in dim, alcohol-soaked bars; "Rattlesnake Girl" simultaneously celebrates gay joy and puts anyone who might mess with Wyatt on notice; and Wyatt owns her power as a woman in "Just a Woman," a duet with Jessi Colter, Jennings’ mother, whose own outlaw country career was often overshadowed by her husband, Waylon Jennings.

Wyatt recently performed at Willie Nelson’s famous Luck Reunion, and this summer will hit other big stages, including the Stagecoach Music Festival and Red Rocks Amphitheater. 

Miko Marks

Musicians of color, especially Black women, have been systematically sidelined by country music in spite of their foundational contributions to the genre. Fifteen years after her first run at country music success, Miko Marks is back and flourishing with a series of songs rooted both in her own experience and the genre’s history.  

With a heady mixture of country, blues and gospel influences, Marks highlights Black contributions to country music. On 2021’s Our Country, her first album after returning to music, she reclaimed the genre; 2022's Feels Like Home hinted at a broader, inclusive future for the genre. In between, Marks reimagined a slice of country music history with her 2021 EP, Race Records, a compilation of some of country’s best-known songs, for which she borrowed the name given to music marketed to Black listeners by the companies that started branding country music for white people in the 1920s.

Marks performed with the Black Opry, a collective of artists designed to lift up and highlight roots musicians of color. Last year, Marks made her Grand Ole Opry debut and was part of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022. On March 24, she released a single with Rissi Palmer, "Still Here."

The Local Honeys

In pop culture and politics, Kentucky evokes strong associations for almost everyone — a fact of which country and folk duo The Local Honeys are acutely aware. With nuanced, closely-worded songs, they critique and dignify the complicated stories and history of their beloved Appalachia.

Their first album, 2017's Little Girls Acting Like Men, kicks off with "Cigarette Trees," an anthemic takedown of the coal industry whose fiery message is accompanied by banjo and fiddle. The track planted Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs squarely in a long tradition of folk music that blends activism with oral history. Like their first album, the Honeys’ subsequent recordings, 2019’s This Gospel and The Local Honeys, released last year, feature a mixture of traditionally-inspired ballads and new folk songs that subvert and complicate typical Appalachian narratives.

The Honeys’ catchy songs and achingly-human, tragic and sometimes funny vignettes earned them tours with Colter Wall and Tyler Childers, a documentary about coal’s devastating effects and the region’s resilience for Patagonia and Pop-Up Magazine’s Working Knowledge series, and a record deal with La Honda Records. 

Hannah Juanita

So often in country music, men get to do all the leavin'. Declaring themselves unable to resist the siren call of adventure, they’re gone in a cloud of dust and three chords and the truth. Women in country music rarely hit the road and when they do, they often aren’t the ones who get to tell the story. But Hannah Juanita wrote a whole album about leaving — and then did.

Feeling stuck in a life that didn’t turn out the way she hoped, Juanita penned the songs for her debut album Hardliner as solace from a failing relationship and then moved to Nashville to sell it. Snappy and straightforward, with traditional country steel guitars, western swing and bluegrass’ sway, and a dash of conjunto, the album’s catchy sing-along lyrics sound like miles flying by on the road with one hand tapping a beat on the steering wheel.

Now a mainstay of the local Nashville scene, Juanita released her new single "Memory of You," on March 31.

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Jackson Dean performing in 2022
Jackson Dean performs at Faster Horses Festival in 2022.

Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage

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12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2023: Nate Smith, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean & More

Before the famed country music festival takes place on April 28-30, take a look at some of the rising stars to check out whether you'll be at Stagecoach or tuning in from home.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Now that the Coachella dust has settled at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., it's time for country music to take over.

Since 2007, the Stagecoach Festival has been bringing some of the biggest names in country music to the desert. This year is no different, with the festival featuring headliners Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton, along with some of country's newer hitmakers, including Bailey Zimmerman, Parker McCollum, Gabby Barrett, Lainey Wilson and Tyler Childers

In addition to the always exciting headliners and stars, Stagecoach continues to be a showcase for up-and-coming talent. Several budding country and folk artists are on this year's roster, from a genre-bending New Jersey native to a bluegrass songstress with a powerful voice.

For fans who can't make the trip to catch the action in person, Stagecoach will be live streaming all weekend on Amazon Prime. No matter how you're enjoying the festival, get to know 12 acts to catch at Stagecoach 2023. 

Nate Smith

The weekend will be a big one for Nate Smith all around: Not only will the California-born singer make his Stagecoach debut, but he will be releasing his self-titled debut album on the same day, Friday April 28.

It's been a long road to success for Smith, who first moved to Nashville in his early 20s. After things didn't take off, he returned home to Paradise, Calif.; in 2018, he lost everything he owned in the massive wildfire that ripped through his hometown.  

But through it all, he found hope through music, and returned to Nashville to try again. Now, he has a No. 1 song — the gritty breakup romp "Whiskey On You" peaked in January — and a rejuvenated soul that is clearly resonating.

Tiera Kennedy

Tiera Kennedy's smooth voice and southern charm first caught the attention of Nashville in 2019, when she was signed as the flagship artist on Songs & Daughters, a publishing company founded by songwriter Nicolle Galyon. In 2020, she released her first single "Found It In You" to critical acclaim.

Since then, Kennedy has independently released a self titled EP, giving fans a more full sense of who she is as an artist and songwriter. The release also led to a record deal with Big Machine Records in 2021.  

Kennedy's bright personality has resonated just as much as her music, as the singer hosts her own show on Apple Music Country. Titled The Tiera Show, the program sees Kennedy sharing her take on what's on the rise in country music with a very personal touch.

Jackson Dean

Another artist making his Stagecoach debut this year, Jackson Dean has been winning over country music fans with his outlaw style and unique, gritty voice. He's already scored a top 5 hit with his debut single, "Don't Come Lookin,'" which reached No. 3 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.

Dean's success has not been limited to just the charts, either: "Don't Come Lookin'" was featured on the TV show 'Yellowstone,' and he's been included on a number of artists to watch lists including Spotify's Hot Country Artists to Watch in 2023, Amazon Music's 2023 Breakthrough Artists to Watch: Country Class, and CMT's Listen Up class of 2023.

After selling out his headlining debut in Nashville in January, Dean will spend the majority of the year headlining sold-out shows and supporting the likes of Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Parker McCullum, Lainey Wilson, and Jon Pardi.

Mackenzie Carpenter

After first seeing success as a co-writer on Lily Rose's breakthrough song, "Villain," Mackenzie Carpenter has since made a name for herself as an artist in her own right. The Georgia-born singer's down-home personality shines through in her fun country-pop tunes including the catchy cautionary tale "Don't Mess With Exes" and the heartbreaking ballad "Jesus, I'm Jealous" — all of which ultimately prove that she isn't afraid to be herself.

In less than a year since signing with Big Machine imprint Valory Music Co., Carpenter has enjoyed many career milestones, including a Grand Ole Opry debut and an invitation to CMT's Next Women of Country class of 2023. And just weeks before taking the Stagecoach stage, Carpenter released her debut self-titled EP. 

Breland

Since the release of his debut single "My Truck" in 2019, Breland has been making waves in the industry by stretching the boundaries of country music. The New Jersey native's sound is derived from a mix of hip-hop, R&B and gospel, while still remaining recognizably country — he even titled his debut album Cross Country.

Breland's feel-good, diverse sound has already helped him land collaborations with country superstars, including Sam Hunt, Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. His single with the latter, "Beers On Me" (also featuring HARDY), scored Breland his first No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, but he's proving to make an impact in his own right with more than 1 billion streams to date.

This year marks Breland's second year in a row on the Stagecoach stage, as he performed at the Late Night at Palomino after-party in 2022.

Bella White

Bella White brings a fresh perspective to an old-time sound. The Canadian artist serves audiences traditional bluegrass sounds with a clear, powerful voice.

White's voice, however, is not her only strength. She's also a skilled instrumentalist, as she was raised in a musical household and was drawn to the mandolin and banjo early on in her life. 

Following the success of her debut album Just Like Leaving, White signed to Rounder Records in 2021. Just ahead of her Stagecoach performance, White released her second album, Among Other Things, on which she explores heartbreak and a wider breadth of sounds, weaving drums and electric guitars into her traditional-sounding strings.

Kameron Marlowe

After a short stint on 'The Voice' in 2018, Kameron Marlowe began paving his own way in Nashville. The singer has made a name for himself with his signature smoky voice, while making sure his music is a true reflection of who he is.

Marlowe gained traction with his first independent release, 2019's "Giving You Up," which helped him land a record deal with Sony Music Nashville in 2020. He's since released his debut album, 2022's We Were Cowboys, and has sold out shows across the country — including his hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

Marlowe nods to his home state in his latest release, "Take Me Home," in which he grapples with the changes that come along with success: "I hate feeling like I'm someone / That I've never been before / Take me home to Carolina / I don't wanna be here anymore," he sings.

Morgan Wade

A trailblazing country singer with an edge, Morgan Wade has captivated audiences with the striking vulnerability of her music. Wade takes her experiences with heartbreak, mental health and addiction and crafts them into songs that stick with listeners.

Wade's voice borders on the edge of country and rock, which makes her moving lyrics all the more affecting. That is particularly true on her breakout track, "Wilder Days," which takes listeners through the raw emotion of finding the right person at the wrong time.

Since the 2021 release of Wade's album Reckless, she has been touring nonstop, both in the U.S. and overseas. Wade's Stagecoach performance is one of over 65 tour dates for 2023, giving fans across the country and around the world a chance to experience her powerful music live. 

Tre Burt

Folk artist Tre Burt uses his storytelling prowess to tell the stories of the moment, amplified by his rootsy sound. Burt engages audiences with tracks like "Under the Devil's Knee," a protest song written during the upheaval of 2020, a year during which he found musical inspiration in the chaos surrounding him.

Since hitting the scene, Burt has performed with artists including Nathanial Ratecliff and Margo Price, and has become a staple at folk festivals around the country. Burt expanded on his deeply affecting sound with his second album, You, Yeah, You, which arrived in 2021; with his powerful delivery on stage and on record, he's been labeled a "storyteller and musical philosopher," and a "troubadour" blazing his own path.

Jaime Wyatt

Jaime Wyatt's success has been long and hard-earned. The singer/songwriter entered the music business when she was just a teen, and the now 37-year-old has kept her nose to the grindstone ever since. Her years have been colored with late nights in honky tonks, addiction, and recovery, and she details it all in her traditional country music.

Wyatt's 2020 release, Neon Cross, challenged the genre, as the singer examined her identity as a queer woman, and positioned herself as a true outlaw in the landscape of the industry. In 2021, she released a merch line with a portion of the proceeds benefiting G.L.I.T.S, an organization that addresses systematic discrimination of LGBTQIA+ individuals. In being true to herself, Wyatt has provided a beacon of hope for queer artists and fans alike.

Kaitlin Butts

Kaitlin Butts has made a habit out of being a good listener, crafting the stories she hears into fun, innovative country songs. Like many of her Stagecoach cohorts, Butts has a versatile sound, drawing in influences from rock and 90's emo music — but the baseline is always undeniably country.

While Butts has been releasing music since 2015's Same Hell, Different Devil, this past year has been a whirlwind for the budding star. Her second album, What Else Can She Do, landed in the top 10 of Billboard's Americana Albums chart; the title track earned a spot on Rolling Stone's "100 Best Songs of 2022" list.

Within a span of six months, Butts played the Ryman Auditorium and made her Grand Ole Opry debut, and has opened for fellow Stagecoacher Morgan Wade as well as playing several other festivals.

American Aquarium

American Aquarium, led by BJ Barham, incorporates elements of country, folk and rock music into their thought-provoking music.The group's lyrics wrestle with some of life's biggest problems and tell delicate, personal stories.

The band's latest record, Chicamacomico, is a journey through the lead singer's personal losses. The album is a departure from the band's previously harder, rock-leaning sound, presenting more stripped-down tracks that lean more on Barnham's stirring vocals. Even so, Chicamacomico has been hailed as their best album yet. 

Over the span of a 20-year career, American Aquarium has cycled through many members; Barnham being a mainstay on lead vocals. The band has proven their staying power in the industry, and their presence at Stagecoach proves that the festival is a celebration of country music in all its forms.

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National Recording Registry Announces Inductees

Photo: Library of Congress

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National Recording Registry Inducts Music From The Notorious B.I.G., Green Day, Blondie, The Chicks, & More

Recordings by the Cars, Bill Withers, Lily Tomlin, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, and the all-Black 369th U.S. Infantry Band after World War I are also among the 25 selected for induction.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 12:54 am

As a founding member of the National Recording Preservation Board, the Recording Academy was instrumental in lobbying and getting the board created by Congress. Now, the Library of Congress has added new treasures to the National Recording Registry, preserving masterpieces that have shaped American culture.

The 2024 class not only celebrates modern icons like Green Day’s punk classic Dookie and Biggie Smalls' seminal Ready to Die, but also honors vintage gems like Gene Autry’s "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and Perry Como’s hits from 1957. These recordings join over 650 titles that constitute the registry — a curated collection housed within the Library’s vast archive of nearly 4 million sound recordings. 

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced these additions as essential pieces of our nation’s audio legacy, each selected for their cultural, historical, or aesthetic importance. This selection process is influenced by public nominations, which hit a record number this year, emphasizing the public's role in preserving audio history.

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"The Library of Congress is proud to preserve the sounds of American history and our diverse culture through the National Recording Registry," Hayden said. "We have selected audio treasures worthy of preservation with our partners this year, including a wide range of music from the past 100 years, as well as comedy. We were thrilled to receive a record number of public nominations, and we welcome the public’s input on what we should preserve next."

The latest selections named to the registry span from 1919 to 1998 and range from the recordings of the all-Black 369th U.S. Infantry Band led by James Reese Europe after World War I, to defining sounds of jazz and bluegrass, and iconic recordings from pop, dance, country, rock, rap, Latin and classical music.

"For the past 21 years the National Recording Preservation Board has provided musical expertise, historical perspective and deep knowledge of recorded sound to assist the Librarian in choosing landmark recordings to be inducted into the Library’s National Recording Registry," said Robbin Ahrold, Chair of the National Recording Preservation Board. "The board again this year is pleased to join the Librarian in highlighting influential works in our diverse sound heritage, as well as helping to spread the word on the National Recording Registry through their own social media and streaming media Campaigns."

Tune in to NPR's "1A" for "The Sounds of America" series, featuring interviews with Hayden and selected artists, to hear stories behind this year’s picks. Stay connected to the conversation about the registry via social media and listen to many of the recordings on your favorite streaming service.

For more details on the National Recording Registry and to explore more about the selections, visit The Library of Congress's official National Recording Registry page.

National Recording Registry, 2024 Selections (chronological order)

  1. "Clarinet Marmalade" – Lt. James Reese Europe’s 369th U.S. Infantry Band (1919)

  2. "Kauhavan Polkka" – Viola Turpeinen and John Rosendahl (1928)

  3. Wisconsin Folksong Collection (1937-1946)

  4. "Rose Room" – Benny Goodman Sextet with Charlie Christian (1939)

  5. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" – Gene Autry (1949)

  6. "Tennessee Waltz" – Patti Page (1950)

  7. "Rocket ‘88’" – Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (1951)

  8. "Catch a Falling Star" / "Magic Moments" – Perry Como (1957)

  9. "Chances Are" – Johnny Mathis (1957)

  10. "The Sidewinder" – Lee Morgan (1964)

  11. "Surrealistic Pillow" – Jefferson Airplane (1967)

  12. "Ain’t No Sunshine" – Bill Withers (1971)

  13. "This is a Recording" – Lily Tomlin (1971)

  14. "J.D. Crowe & the New South" – J.D. Crowe & the New South (1975)

  15. "Arrival" – ABBA (1976)

  16. "El Cantante" – Héctor Lavoe (1978)

  17. "The Cars" – The Cars (1978)

  18. "Parallel Lines" – Blondie (1978)

  19. "La-Di-Da-Di" – Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick (MC Ricky D) (1985)

  20. "Don’t Worry, Be Happy" – Bobby McFerrin (1988)

  21. "Amor Eterno" – Juan Gabriel (1990)

  22. "Pieces of Africa" – Kronos Quartet (1992)

  23. Dookie – Green Day (1994)

  24. Ready to Die – The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

  25. "Wide Open Spaces" – The Chicks (1998)


21 Albums Turning 50 In 2024: 'Diamond Dogs,' 'Jolene,' 'Natty Dread' & More

Dylan Chambers
Dylan Chambers

Photo: Courtesy of Dylan Chambers

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ReImagined: Watch Dylan Chambers Channel Bruno Mars In This Groovy Cover Of "Uptown Funk"

Pop-soul newcomer Dylan Chambers offers his rendition of "Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' infectious 2014 hit.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 05:03 pm

In the latest episode of ReImagined, soul-pop newcomer Dylan Chambers delivers a fresh, heartfelt take on "Uptown Funk", using an electric guitar to drive the performance.

In the year of its inception, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" quickly made strides across the map, from a No. 1 peak on the Billboard Hot 100 to a Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance win at the 2014 GRAMMYs. Ten years after its release, it is the ninth most-viewed YouTube video of all-time and was named one of Billboard's "Songs That Defined The Decade."

Chambers named Mars as one of his most influential inspirations and praised Silk Sonic's Las Vegas residency as one of the "greatest concerts" he has attended in an interview with Muzic Notez.

"Don't believe me, just watch," Chambers calls in the chorus, recreating its notable doo-wop ad-libs with the strums of his instrument.

Chambers dropped his latest single, "I Can Never Get Enough" on April 10, following his March release "High (When I'm Low)." Both tracks will be a part of his upcoming EP, For Your Listening Pleasure!, out May 17.

Press play on the video above to watch Dylan Chambers' groovy rendition of Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of ReImagined.

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Henry Mancini in a recording studio
Henry Mancini

Photo: A. Schorr/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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10 Essential Henry Mancini Recordings: From "Moon River" To The 'Pink Panther' Theme

Composer, arranger, conductor and pianist Henry Mancini won 20 GRAMMY Awards over his legendary career. On what would be his 100th birthday, revisit 10 timeless Henry Mancini compositions.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 01:34 pm

Henry Mancini had a gift for melodies of an ethereal, almost supernatural beauty.  

His prolific discography — albums of jazzy orchestral pop, dozens of film and television soundtracks — established him as a cultural icon and transformed the role that melody and song played in the art of movie narrative. Once you encounter a Henry Mancini tune, it’s almost impossible not to start humming it.

A composer, arranger, conductor and pianist of tireless discipline, Mancini won a staggering 20 GRAMMY Awards and was nominated 72 times. All of his wins — including the first-ever golden gramophone for Album Of The Year at the inaugural 1959 GRAMMYs — will be on display at the GRAMMY Museum to honor his centennial birthday, April 16. 

To mark what would be his centennial birthday, Mancini's children will travel to Abruzzo, Italy — where Mancini’s parents migrated from. And on June 23, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra will present a program of his music with a gallery of guest stars including singer Monica Mancini, the maestro’s daughter. Out June 21, The Henry Mancini 100th Sessions – Henry Has Company will feature a new recording of "Peter Gunn" conducted by Quincy Jones and featuring John Williams, Herbie Hancock and Arturo Sandoval.

Although Mancini died in 1994 at age 70, his compositions remain timeless and ever-relevant. Read on for 10 essential Henry Mancini compositions to cherish and rediscover.  

"Peter Gunn" (1958)

In 1958, Mancini was looking for work and used his old Universal studio pass to enter the lot and visit the barber shop. It was outside the store that he met writer/director Blake Edwards and got the chance to write the music for a new television show about private detective Peter Gunn. 

Seeped in West Coast Jazz, Mancini’s main theme sounds brash and exciting to this day – its propulsive beat and wailing brass section evoking an aura of cool suspense. The "Peter Gunn" assignment cemented his reputation as a cutting-edge composer, and the accompanying album (The Music From Peter Gunn) won GRAMMYs in the Album Of The Year and Best Arrangement categories.

"Mr. Lucky" (1959)

Half of the "Peter Gunn" fan mail was addressed to Mancini. As a result, CBS offered Blake Edwards a second television show, as long as the composer was part of the package. Edwards created "Mr. Lucky," a stylish series about the owner of a floating casino off the California coast. 

1959 was an exhausting year for Mancini, as he was scoring two shows at the same time on a weekly basis. Still, his music flowed with elegance and ease. The "Mr. Lucky" ambiance allowed him to explore Latin rhythms, and the strings on his wonderful main theme shimmer with a hint of yearning. It won GRAMMY Awards in 1960 for Best Arrangement and Best Performance by an Orchestra.

"Lujon" (1961)

As part of his contract with RCA Victor, Mancini was committed to recording a number of albums featuring original compositions in the same velvety jazz-pop idiom from his television work. "Lujon" is the standout track from Mr. Lucky Goes Latin, a collection of Latin-themed miniatures that luxuriate in a mood of plush languor.

 Inspired by the complex harmonics of French composer Maurice Ravel, "Lujon" steers safely away from lounge exotica thanks to the refined qualities of the melody and arrangement.

"Moon River" (1961)

Performed on a harmonica, the main melody of "Moon River" is nostalgic to the bone, but also life affirming. A majestic string section makes the music swoon, like gliding on air. And the harmonies in the vocal chorus add gravitas — a touch of humanity. 

It took Mancini half an hour to write "Moon River," but the Breakfast at Tiffany’s anthem made him a global superstar. Among the many artists who covered the song, pop crooner Andy Williams turned it into his personal anthem. Mancini won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and GRAMMY Awards for Record Of The Year, Song Record Of The Year and Best Arrangement. The album soundtrack earned two additional gramophones.

Theme from Hatari! (1962)

After two failed attempts with different composers, legendary director Howard Hawks invited Mancini to write the score for Hatari! — the wildly episodic but oddly endearing safari film he had shot in Tanganyika with John Wayne. Mancini jumped at the opportunity, and Hawks gave him a few boxes from the trip that contained African percussive instruments, a thumb piano and a tape of Masai tribal chants. Two chords from that chant, together with a slightly detuned upright piano formed the basis for the movie’s main theme. 

Mancini’s sparse arrangement and melancholy melody conspired to create one of the most gorgeous themes in the history of film.

"Days of Wine and Roses" (1962)

Throughout the decades, Mancini provided musical accompaniment to Blake Edwards’ filmography, which switched from slapstick comedy to stark melodrama. There is a perverse beauty to the theme of Days of Wine and Roses — a movie about a couple of lifelong alcoholics — as the lush choral arrangement seems to glorify the innocence of better times. 

It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song — Mancini’s second Oscar in a row — and three GRAMMYs: Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Background Arrangement.

"The Pink Panther Theme" (1963)

Directed by Edwards and starring Peter Sellers as part of an ensemble cast, the original Pink Panther was a frothy caper comedy that had none of the manic touches of comedic genius that Sellers would exhibit in subsequent entries of the franchise. It was Mancini’s ineffable main theme that carried the movie through.

Jazzy and mischievous, Mancini wrote the melody with the light-as-a-feather playing of tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson in mind. It won GRAMMYs in three categories: Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best Instrumental Compositions (Other Than Jazz), and Best Instrumental Performance – Non-Jazz.

Charade (1963)

Mancini’s gift for cosmopolitan tunes and jazzy arrangements found the perfect vehicle in the score for Stanley Donen’s Charade — a droll Hitchcockian thriller shot in Paris and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. 

The main theme is a waltz in A minor, and opens with pulsating percussion. When the central melody appears, it evokes a melancholy reflection and a certain thirst for the kind of globetrotting adventure that the film delivers in spades. It was Johnny Mercer’s favorite Mancini melody, and he wrote exquisite lyrics for it. 

The best version probably belongs to jazz singer Johnny Hartman, who released it as the opening track of his 1964 album I Just Dropped By To Say Hello.

Two For The Road (1967)

Friends and family remember Mancini as a humble craftsman who ignored the trappings of fame and focused on the discipline of work. In 1967, after Audrey Hepburn cabled to ask him about writing the music for the Stanley Donen film Two For The Road, Mancini agreed, but was taken aback when the director rejected his initial theme. Leaving his ego aside, he returned to the drawing board and delivered a lovely new melody – and a spiraling piano pattern seeped in old fashioned tenderness.

"Theme from The Molly Maguires" (1970)

Even though Mancini enjoyed most accolades during the ‘60s, his protean level of inspiration never wavered. In 1970, he was brought in to rescue the soundtrack of Martin Ritt’s gritty secret societies drama The Molly Maguires, about Irish-American miners rebelling against their mistreatment in 19th century Pennsylvania. 

The main theme makes time stand still: a sparse arrangement that begins with a solitary harp, until a recorder ushers in a haunting, Irish-inspired melody. The score reflected a more restrained Mancini, but was still intensely emotional.

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