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Country Music Sales Strong in 2002 - 2002-12-21

The U.S. economic slowdown was felt throughout the music industry during this past year. Only country and gospel recordings showed an increase in sales. Several artists contributed to country's commercial success in 2002.

Overall record sales dropped 13 percent in 2002. But, sales of country albums increased by 10 percent during the past year, thanks to new releases by Country superstars Faith Hill, her husband Tim McGraw, The Dixie Chicks, and Shania Twain, who returned after a five-year break from recording. Although Faith and Shania are credited with attracting new fans to country music, some purists criticized their pop-influenced sound. Faith Hill explains how she handles the remarks.

"I don't even think about the controversy and criticism," she said. "Recently it's been a little difficult because it's been so personal. To be personally attacked by people who don't even know who you are, it makes you just want to stand up and [say], 'Wait a minute. Listen to my music and don't be so judgmental about everything you think is there or not there.' There is no ulterior motive to do this or do that. I'm a smart woman and I do what's right for me and what I think my fans will like. And that's all I think about. So, in my opinion, it's their loss."

News headlines throughout the year included retirement announcements by Alabama and The Statler Brothers. Young country star Cyndi Thomson, whose debut single went to Number One, revealed her decision to walk away from her recording career.

The 70th birthday of Johnny Cash was celebrated throughout the year with many re-releases of his classic albums and two new tribute collections. And, the country music community mourned the passing of two legends, Waylon Jennings and songwriter Harlan Howard. Attendance at Nashville's 2002 Country Music Fan Fair was up 10 percent over the previous year. The four-day event attracted younger audiences than ever before. The top five highest-grossing country tours of 2002 included two multi-artist packages - George Strait's fifth annual festival tour and Brooks and Dunn's "Neon Circus and Wild West Show." Both are planning similar outings for 2003. The most popular single artist tours were performed by Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson.

Alan Jackson enjoyed one of the most successful years of his career. For the second year in a row, he ranked Number One on Billboard's yearend Songwriters chart. In addition, the Georgia native has the number three album of the year with Drive. And, Alan added several more trophies to his mantle by sweeping this year's Country Music Association Awards. He went into the race with 10 nominations, which broke a 30-year record held by Merle Haggard. Alan won five awards, including Entertainer of the Year. The humble, quiet performer spoke at the end of the show.

"It's been a very good night," he said. "I'm very appreciative, and I'm still humbled by this whole experience that came with the song. I'm just a singer of simple songs and that's the truth."

Toby Keith had one of the longest-running Number One songs of 2002 with My List, which topped the country chart for four weeks.

Toby followed My List with the controversial single, Courtesy of The Red, White And Blue, his angry response to the 9-11 attacks on America. The Oklahoma-born singer says a general in the U.S. Marine Corps inspired him to include the song on his latest album.

"I played for the Marines at the Pentagon, and I laid this song on them, and he came up after the show and said, 'It's your job as an entertainer to serve your country. If you want to serve your country, lift the morale of the troops and let them know the American people are behind them,'" he said.

Toby Keith's My List ranks at Number Six on Billboard's yearend Country Singles chart, which male singers dominated this year. Martina McBride is the only female artist in the Top 10, appearing at Number 9 with Blessed.

Rounding out the Top Five spots are Darryl Worley with I Miss My Friend; Steve Holy's Good Morning Beautiful; Living and Living Well by George Strait; and, Alan Jackson's Drive (For Daddy Gene), which became the 20th chart-topping single of his career.

At Number One is an artist who logged seven weeks at the top of the Country Singles chart in 2002 - Tennessee native Kenny Chesney with The Good Stuff.

Part of VOA's Yearend Series