CANCELED - Film and Media Studies presents: Christina Baade
As part of the American Musicological Society events:
Vera Lynn in Nashville (1977): White Working-Class Femininity and Transatlantic Affinities
Christina Baade, is Professor of Communications Studies and Multimedia, McMaster University
In May 2014, The Guardian featured an interview with the then 97-year-old singer and “national treasure” Dame Vera Lynn in which she revealed her “secret passion” for Dolly Parton. The World War II icon, best known for her renditions of “We’ll Meet Again” and “White Cliffs of Dover,” explained: “Of course, we dress differently and our accents are poles apart, but Dolly’s songs – and those of other country singers – have always seemed like a natural fit for me. In the mid-1970s, I even decided to make my own country album.” One unimpressed reader commented, “Vera Lynne [sic] sings country? Right up there with Ethel Merman’s disco album I would imagine.”
It is not hard to dismiss Vera Lynn in Nashville, a crossover album featuring an aging diva and abject genres, as kitsch. Released in 1977, a year better remembered in histories of punk and disco, the album embodies what Mitchell Morris calls “the problem of the 1970s”—a decade whose messy politics and generic entropy resist easy historical narratives. In this paper, I ask what we might learn if we approach Vera Lynn in Nashville not a historical oddity but as a logical outcome of decades of musical influence, marketing, and exchange. What happens if we take Lynn at her word and, building upon Morris’s interpretive approach to “modest songs,” treat the album as a sincere expression of musical affinity? This talk explores this question of affinity through the lenses of genre, cultural politics, and historical narrative, reflecting on how the history of transatlantic country crossover complicates rock-centered narratives of “blue-eyed soul” and British invasion, especially when the focus shifts to performances of working class, white femininity and its uneasy relation to respectability, musical authenticity, and nationalism.
Thursday, April 2 at 4:15pm