In many ways, revered country singer, multiple Grammy nominee and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare and author and songwriter Shel Silverstein can claim a shared legacy. Bare established himself as a determined insurgent, who, over the course of a nearly 60 year career, set the stage for the outlaw country crowd that followed. Silverstein wrote any number of quirky and comical songs that became hits for a disparate number of popular artists, from Dr. Hook to Johnny Cash, and Belinda Carlisle to Emmylou Harris. Both men made their own indelible imprint on American music and are remembered as iconic individuals well worthy of respect.
In 1978, Bare recorded a live concert at RCA Studios in Nashville culling a set list that was dominated by Silverstein songs. Aptly dubbed "Great American Saturday Night," it consisted of material that ranged from the playful to the poignant to the provocative, and from cynicism to satire. The titles tell it all - "The Day All The Yes Men Said No," "Whiplash Will," "Red-Neck Hippie Romance" and the celebratory title track that bookends the album and sets the scene overall.
Many of the songs reference - what else - the ideal ways to celebrate Saturday night in an array of ways best suited to the characters and circumstances shared in each offering. Consequently, Bare rallies his audience's enthusiasm through songs that detail a couple's opposites attraction (the aforementioned "Red-Neck Hippie Romance"), being a weight watcher for the sake of romance ("The Diet"), a life of loneliness ("Goodnight Little House Plant"), the right to frolic naked in public ("They Won't Let Us Show It At The Beach"), and what it's like living life as a cult hero ("Livin' Legend"). It's all good fun, of course, although in songs such as "Time" and "Goodnight Little House Plant," humor and heartbreak find common cause.
At age 85, Bare remains a timeless provocateur. This essential addition to his lingering legacy underscores the reasons why.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tennessee. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book - Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound - is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.