November 23, 2008

Ray Stevens: The media

The relationship that Ray Stevens has enjoyed with the media is a bit of a mystery. Ray is often highly critically acclaimed in most of his efforts but the critical acclaim doesn't always translate into public awareness or even respect.

Ray has the respect of his fans and his peers in the music business...but there is a segment of the music world, including the critics, who have often been mystified over Ray's success and longevity. The contemporary media who choose to do a write-up on Ray or a music critic who maybe was born 10 or 15 years into the 1970's and often has no comprehension of the music before his or her lifetime are lost when it comes to Ray Stevens. In 1992 when Comedy Video Classics hit, some critics weren't aware of who Ray was...the comments do not exist today but there were some who got enjoyment watching "those video's by the guy with the beard...oh, what was his name?". So, by some accounts, the comedy music video's were being watched by some who had no clue who Ray Stevens was prior to that.

There is also a portion of the media who frown on comedy recordings...sophisticated music critics are completely at a loss when a single like "It's Me Again, Margaret" can capture a segment of the music audience...afterall, in the minds of the sophisticate, there's nothing sophisticated about a song dealing with an obscene phone caller...and that dirty laugh. Heh heh heh heh heh!!!

But while the media looks down their nose on comedy and novelty songs preferring "serious, legitimate recordings", it should also be noted that Ray's serious side has come under attack in some circles of the media as well. Music critics who do not like songs grouped in the "peace and love" category always had something cute to say in the early 1970's regarding Ray's #1 hit "Everything Is Beautiful". Critics today, 38 years later, most of them born well after 1970, cringe at the song because it deals with topics that somehow have become less appealing through the years? A song about hoping people can get along in spite of everyone's differences seems to me like a universal topic/theme but to hear it from music critics of today they shudder when they think of the song.

It is a shame, though. In some circles, though, the media has been positive. A lot of the negative comments often come from internet hot-shots and pop music critics, actually, who don't really have an idea who Ray Stevens is anyhow. The media embrace actually started to take shape in country music publications in the late 1970's and continued on through the 1980's and into the 1990's. The country music publications seemed far less cynical in their reporting, too. Country Song Roundup covered Ray's career often in the late '70s and into the early '80s. The Music City News publication, which was famous for it's fan-voted awards show, also featured lengthy and positive write-up's for Ray. Ray also kept his name and his music in the market place with print ad's in Billboard magazine and other publications.

In one of the ironic cases, though...I earlier wrote about Comedy Video Classics being seen by some as a collection of music video's by an unknown singer with a beard...but the success of that home video and the others that followed was directly tied to the media. Ray used the media, in print ad's and TV commercials, to sell his home video's. The few "critics" who consider themselves hip and all-knowing who bash Ray and his brand of entertainment probably don't even have a sense of humor...let alone the ability to dial a phone number.

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