Country Legends We Love: Tammy Wynette

The singer famed for "Stand By Your Man" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" was "an everywoman with...strength and affection."

Calling Tammy Wynette a “one-hit wonder” actually undercuts the dynamic musical and cultural impact of her signature song, 1968’s global chart-topper “Stand By Your Man.” It — as well as Wynette’s three-decade-long career — entirely occupies the center of the Venn diagram space between steadfast devotion to love, women’s liberation, female empowerment, and profound empathy. Wynette’s ability to succeed instead of succumbing to seemingly insurmountable pressure modernized pop stardom under an ever-judgemental mainstream eye for trailblazing female country stars.

From her incredibly humble beginnings, “The First Lady of Country Music’s” life was defined by embracing, then living through impossible odds.

Tammy Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh in Tremont, Mississippi, on May 5, 1942. Her father, a musician, died of a brain tumor when she was nine months old. Unable to properly care for her daughter as a single parent, Pugh’s mother left her daughter in the care of her grandparents and a teenage aunt who lived in a home in Memphis, Tennessee that lacked indoor toilets and running water.

By 21, she lacked a high school degree but was already a married mother of three (to Euple Byrd, a day laborer). Plus, she worked in a series of odd jobs, including as a waitress, receptionist, a barmaid, in a shoe factory, and as a cosmetologist. However, more than anything, she wanted to pursue a career as a country music singer. In a case of famous last words, before divorcing Byrd in 1966, he noted, “dream on, baby,” regarding her aspirations for singing stardom.

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