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BILLY BOB THORNTON

“Private Radio”

Lost Highway

If the actor-director had tried to make it as a singer-songwriter in Nashville in the early ‘70s, he would have surely played the same clubs as Kris Kristofferson. They might have even shared an apartment.

The pair would have laughed about how every record executive in town had told them they had no future in the music business because they didn’t have radio-friendly voices. But both would have kept singing anyway because they believed in their songs, which expressed demons and desires with a nakedness rare in country music at the time, and even more so today.

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Make no mistake. Kristofferson would have been the headliner, but with these songs, Thornton would have been interesting enough to attract record executives, always on the lookout for good songs for their radio-friendly singers to record. The execs wouldn’t care much for Thornton’s barroom narratives, but they would have taken note of the desperation in “Walk of Shame” and the haunting devotion in “Your Blue Shadow.”

The song that would make the execs think about signing Thornton, ragged voice and all, would be the searching, introspective “Private Radio”: “There are voices in my head/and demons in my soul/Sometimes they keep me warm/sometimes they leave me cold.”

Tipped off to the tune, Johnny Cash would probably have recorded “Private Radio” to follow up his version of Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Once that song became a hit, the only thing left for the execs would be to bet on whether Thornton would keep trying to hone his songwriting or follow Kristofferson to Hollywood and the movies.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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