I recently really got back to my country music roots by delving deep into the archives of all my favorite artists.
While the boys definitely have a lot to offer, I couldn’t help but be especially drawn to the strength the female artists show in each of their soulful tunes. The genre is known for its emotional tones of love, loss, and heartache — and now I know that’s exactly what so many of those women endured before, after, and while making their way up the charts.
Not only did they have to push past stereotypes in the early days that claimed ladies couldn’t find success in the industry, but so many suffered hardship in their personal lives and clearly used their musical talents to help themselves cope.
That’s probably why it helps us feel better when we’re experiencing our own lows, knowing they’ve been there before and come out the other end.
Take a look to see which of our beloved female country icons overcame tragic circumstances.
Did we miss your favorite country gal? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!
Thumbnail source: Wikimedia Commons
1. Dolly Parton
The country queen, who is the fourth of 12 children, was devastated by the loss of her younger brother, Larry, who passed away just four days after being born.
Before he was born, Dolly referred to him as “my baby,” since the older siblings took turns helping their parents out with the younger ones as they arrived, and Larry was her first chance to take a turn. She was distraught, something you can see depicted in her television special Coat of Many Colors.
2. Kitty Wells
As one of the earliest country female performers, along with Patsy Cline, Wells suffered major backlash for her first hit “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”
The tune was an answer to another hit song, “The Wild Side of Life,” which placed blame on so-called loose women. With lyrics defending the female perspective, a progressive and controversial idea at the time, she was banned from several radio stations. Ironically, Wells wasn’t even that keen on recording it apart from the $125 paycheck she would receive, as she assumed it would gain little attention.
3. Loretta Lynn
Famous for her emotional tunes about tense domestic issues like infidelity and alcoholism, such as “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” and “The Pill,” they were sadly all inspired by her real-life marriage to Oliver Vanetta “Doolittle” Lynn.
Loretta was only 15 when she married the 21-year-old Doolittle, and despite their hardships, they remained together for nearly 50 years until his death in 1996.
4. Tammy Wynette
When she was just 9 months old, her father died of a brain tumor and her mother sent her to live with grandparents. She was raised mostly by her aunt, Carolyn, but she was only 5 years older than her and more like a sister.
However, Wynette also inherited a number of musical instruments from her father, which she taught herself to play while growing up.
5. Jenny Lou Carson
The first ever female songwriter to pen a No. 1 charting country hit was unlucky when it came to love. Her first marriage to fellow National Barn Dance performer Donald Francis “Red” Blanchard was said to be doomed from the start, ending almost as quickly as it began.
That was followed by a string of three other husbands. Though her divorce from Myrl “Jack” Dumbauld didn’t come until nearly 10 years after their wedding, the union disintegrated after just one year. Her third husband, big band leader Harry Lawrence “Tiny” Hill, lasted only two years, followed by William H. Newman for two years as well.
6. Skeeter Davis
In real life, the high school friends weren’t actually related. Mary Frances Penick decided to take on Betty Jack Davis’ name for the faux sister act, the Davis Sisters, and became Skeeter Davis. Sadly, shortly after recording their first and ultimately last hit together in 1953, “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know,” they were both in a severe automobile accident that took Betty Jack’s life.
Skeeter attempted to continue with Betty Jack’s real sister, Georgia, but things were never the same.
7. Tanya Tucker
After finding success with “Delta Dawn” at just 13 years old in 1972, she soon found herself spiraling into alcohol and drug addiction during her late teens, as the decade came to a close.
Not only was her career on the rocks, but she was making frequent appearances in gossip columns for her late night antics. The young singer was involved in stormy relationships with men much older than her — most notably her tense courtship with Glen Campbell — before finally finding her way back to the charts at the end of the 1980s.
8. Reba McEntire
After marrying in 1976, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” singer divorced her first husband, a national steer riding champion named Charlie Battles, in 1987 when he decided it was time for her to pack up her musical career as sales began to drop, claiming she had “peaked.”
Instead, she packed up all her belongings and made a new start all on her own.
9. Bobbie Gentry
Shortly after she was born, the “Ode to Billy Joe” singer’s parents divorced, with her mother leaving their Mississippi home for California. Bobbie was raised on her grandparents’ farm until joining her mother in California at 13.
Like Jenny Lou Carson, Gentry seemed unable to find a match when it came to love, with each of her three marriages ending in less than or near a year’s time.
Did we miss any country ladies who you know had hard times in their past? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!