But lordy how things have changed.
Not only in our post-Diana society do we vie with family, friends and neighbours to show ever more open and intimate expressions of affection, love and desire, but the world of country singing has grown up.
And they don’t come more grown up than Mary Gauthier, the Louisiana-born Nashville resident who started her European tour in Shropshire this week.
Mary’s “greatest hit”, Mercy Now, has been voted the 11th saddest song in a Rolling Stone poll.
“It’s not sad, it’s REAL,” she told the packed Morris Hall in Shrewsbury.
Pop music, she has discovered, talks exclusively about the first 90 days of a new love affair. And that’s not the period that interests her.
Gauthier songs are about loss, loneliness, struggle and redemption. One of her favourite words is “grace” – that from which we fall, aspire to regain, seek from an omnipresent god.
Songs like I Drink, Cigarette Machine and the newly written Iraq are harsh and uncompromising, but her attitudes avoid judgement.
One of her new compositions, That’s How You Learn to Live Alone, was chosen for the soundtrack of the TV series Nashville. Mary was hopeful that it indicates a move towards “adult” songs – and not in the nudge-nudge way in which the word is used these days.
She sees songwriting as a gift, and one that she’s currently sharing with returning service men and women traumatised by their time in the Middle East. Trauma is a breakdown in connection, she says, and music is the way to rebuild those vital links.
In an evening that started with guest Northern Irish singer songwriter Ben Glover (now also a Nashville resident) the audience was treated to raw emotion, scenes of life on the road and on the streets, on the railtracks and fighting for identity in the desert, all performed with an unsentimental wry wit that looks at, and through, the everyday pain towards a glimpse of that elusive grace.
For more information, visit Mary’s website, www.marygauthier.com, or visit www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org/