Billboard: How Ken Burns’ New Documentary Will ‘Redefine What People Think of As Country Music’
Ken Burns reaches into his front-right jeans pocket to retrieve a small, burnished silver heart, then a coin awarded to learning-disabled students who memorize The Gettysburg Address. Next he pulls out a button from the uniform of a soldier who landed at Normandy on D-Day and, finally, a Minié ball fired from a musket at Gettysburg.
The Emmy Award-winning documentarian travels every day with these four mementos, gifts from fans of his more than 30 films. They represent a tiny fraction of the tokens he has received — reminders of the impact his documentaries, from 1981’s Brooklyn Bridge to 2017’s The Vietnam War, have had on generations of viewers. “The hardest part is [carrying] the abutment to the Brooklyn Bridge,” jokes Dayton Duncan, his longtime collaborator.
For nearly four decades, Burns has been telling the story of America one topic at a time. For the past eight years, he has focused on country music, resulting in — simply and definitively named, like so many of his films — Country Music, a sprawling 16-and-a-half-hour, eight-part, $30 million budget film airing on PBS’ 350 member stations starting Sept. 15. Burns’ team interviewed over 100 people, including Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Rhiannon Giddens and, in one of his last sit-downs, Merle Haggard. (Nearly 20 of Burns’ subjects have since died, making his plan to donate 175 hours of interviews and transcripts to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum all the more resonant.) [READ MORE]