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Natalie Weiner

Natalie Weiner is writer whose work has appeared in Billboard, JazzTimes, Rolling Stone, NPR Music, and Noisey, among others. After studying music and American studies at Columbia, where she wrote a thesis on jazz's transition from pop music to art music, Natalie began writing about everything from dancehall to country to hip-hop -- which she continues to do today, along with some sports coverage during her day job as a staff writer at Bleacher Report.

"'Don’t Talk To Me About Men': Re-examining the Catalogs of Nashville’s Pioneering Women Songwriters"
The story of Nashville’s many women musicians is typically presented as an abbreviated counternarrative to the still-overwhelming dominance of men in country: Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline all the way through Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris. The fact is, though, that women have been entrenched in the country music industry behind the scenes as well as onstage—even before Wells was singing about honky-tonk angels. Jimmie Rodgers bought many of his classic songs from his sister-in-law, Elsie McWilliams; Jenny Lou Carson earned women’s first country no. 1 in 1945 with “You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often”; Cindy Walker sold her first song, “Lone Star Trail,” to Bing Crosby in 1940 when she was just 22.

Their success—and that of other writers like Felice Bryant and Marijohn Wilkin—offers insight into an unexpected source of gender fluidity in the ever-heteronormative country scene: women who, before there were even a substantial faction of women country performers, were writing hit country songs for men. Starting with the songs themselves, both the ones that made it up the charts and the ones that were never recorded, and continuing through the archival material available, this presentation will sketch out what it meant to be a woman working in country during the 1940s and 50s.

There are songs about women (“Never Trust A Woman,” as Carson wrote for Red Foley), songs about men (“Why I Don’t Trust Men,” by Walker), and a lot of songs about love that have been performed by countless artists of all genders. The women themselves aren’t alive to comment on the barriers or advantages they had as minorities, and when asked previously most have said (as one might expect) that they never considered their gender while writing. But the songs themselves, and the media around their success, is still available to illuminate what’s changed (and what hasn’t) for women taking their pens and guitars to Nashville.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, April 27

5:45pm PDT