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R.I.P. Eddy Arnold

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By See-Dubya  •  May 10, 2008 12:55 AM

Your parents or your grandparents probably have some of Eddy Arnold’s records up in the attic. Give ‘em a spin, or take a tour through his Last.fm page, because Eddy’s no longer with us.

Sorry to depart from politics, and to inflict upon you my acutely uncool taste in music (Mark Steyn can switch between the two subjects with ease, but I can’t lay claim to his expertise). However, Eddy was a class act and deserves to be remembered for that. When so many celebrities and musicians are revelling in trash, it’s worth remembering someone who enjoyed a great deal of success yet lived his life pretty much above reproach. I’ve no idea what his politics were, and he never posed nude for a magazine cover (nor let his fifteen-year-old daughter do so like Billy B. Badd did.) He just sang, and sang well, in a great warm baritone that you’ll probably like even if you don’t like country.

In fact, that was part of his appeal, and a source of some criticism against him: along with Jim Reeves’, his style became known as “countrypolitan”. Eddy dropped a lot of the distinctive country instrumentation and the bedazzler’d shirts, and donned a tuxedo and sang in front of a sound-stage orchestra with lots of strings. The Jordannaires (or vocalists who sounded like them) backed him up in the kind of production music writers like to call “lush”. But all that lush backing still couldn’t hide the country in his voice. (Once in a while, he still indulged it.)

He was branded a sellout to his country roots by a lot of folks in Nashville, but his sound has aged better than many of the hillbilly acts of the day. I hesitate to dub Eddy a “crooner”, because that term conjures up (to me) a degree of smarm and guile and syrup I can’t detect in that voice. He’s not slick, or even smooth, which means he can handle some pretty sappy lyrics and still have it work. Dean Martin belting out “Make the World Go Away” would just sound like he was making excuses for being drunk; Eddy sounds like he’s been hurt and he means every word.

So if you’ll permit me one dedication: this is going out to Hillary in Chappaqua.

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{Post by See-Dubya, who assumes all liability for accusations of fogeyness resulting from this post. Any uncoolness is solely mine and not Michelle’s.}

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