Today is the birthday of country singer Donna Fargo (b. 1945).
For some reason her most popular tune popped back into my consciousness a few months ago, and I thought I’d blab about it for a birthday blogpost. “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” made it all the way to #11 on the pop charts in 1972, but the radio isn’t the only place you’d hear it — Fargo would trot it out for years on variety shows (as one hit wonders will do, though she was actually a two hit wonder, the other being “Funny Face”), and you’d see her from time to time on Hee Haw, and this song was prominently included in anthologized record albums that were advertised on television.
Hearing this song from the vantage point of 2014, I’m of two minds.
One, is “Wow!, just wow. I lived in a time when a song like THIS was on the pop charts.” It’s fairly unimaginable now. I’m thinking especially of the chorus and the part where she “thanks the Lord”. It’s the sound of reaction, of Nixon’s America. “Purple Haze” was 1967. In 1972, there was no shortage of crazy rock and roll happening, but somehow the mainstream had shifted…the Carpenters, the Osmonds, the Patridge Family, and stuff like this were now at the center. This is a cultural moment crystallized.
But my second thought, when I listen to the verses is: it’s not a total reaction. In some ways (sexually, for example) it’s progressive. There’s a bed in it. Lovemaking has occurred. In the old days, lyrics would never have gone anywhere near those images, despite the fact that all humans have engaged in the behavior since humans have existed. Furthermore, Fargo wrote the tune herself – – it reflects a woman’s perspective. That must be why the lovers in the song make each other’s lunches! Listen to it here on Youtube until some turkey takes it down.
To learn about the history of show business (including tv variety), consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.