Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rant #599: "The Day My Mama Socked It To the Harper Valley P.T.A."

Younger readers of this blog probably do not have the slightest idea what the title of this Rant means.

Others probably forgot what its meaning is after all these years.

But "Harper Valley P.T.A." was a pretty powerful message way back when, encapsulated in a song by country singer Jeannie C. Riley that hit the top of the Hot 100 charts in 1968.

Today, Riley turns 66.

Let's go over the context of the song. A widowed woman, Mrs. Johnson, is taken to task by the local P.T.A. after her daughter brings home a note from school that criticizes Mrs. Johnson's habits, including wearing a mini-skirt, having relationships with the opposite sex, and other behavior which the supposedly staid P.T.A. does not approve of.

Mrs. Johnson is far wiser than the P.T.A., turning the tables on them by bringing up their own individual "behaviors," if you will, of each and every member of the P.T.A.

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, eh?

The song was incredibly popular, one of the few tunes to hit No. 1 on both the pop and country charts. People of all ages got the hook of the song, showing hypocrisy to be a negative thing.

The song was so popular that it was turned into a movie and very brief TV show 10 years after it hit its peak.

Riley had other country hits, but the song was such a phenomenon that it pretty much eclipsed her other output, especially on the pop charts. She never really had another pop hit, with "The Girl Most Likely" only reaching No. 55 and subsequent singles either skirted the bottom of the chart did not chart at all.

Riley herself was something of an anomaly as a country singer herself. When female country singers were pretty strait-laced, especially about their dress, she bought into the current trends, living out the "Harper Valley P.T.A." lifestyle by wearing the current fashion styles, including mini-skirts, of course.

All told, Riley was a successful country singer, and through some trials and tribulations of her own, has emerged as a gospel singer in recent years.

But that song ... it kind of resonates today, doesn't it?

People continue to criticize the behavior of others without looking inwardly at themselves.

I guess it's something of a human thing to knock others while you, personally, are not that angelic either, but it was all bought to the fore by Riley's tune, which continues to get played on almost a daily basis on oldies stations around the country.

"Harper Valley P.T.A." really stands for "Anyplace U.S.A.", as the topics talked about in the song really can happen anyplace, anywhere.

And more than 40 years after hitting the top spot on the charts, "Harper Valley P.T.A." still resonates today.

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