Tammy Wynette first came to fame in the 1960s. Her amazing vocal powers and ability to wring every last drop of emotion from a song turned her into one of the most popular female country singers around, with hits like D.I.V.O.R.C.E and Stand By Your Man dominating the charts throughout the late 60s and early 70s. Her short-lived, tumultuous marriage to country star George Jones boosted her profile even further, leading to a string of successful duets for the power couple. Here, we look back at some of her finest moments with our pick of the ten best Tammy Wynette songs of all time.
10. He Loves Me All the Way
Kicking off our list of the 10 best Tammy Wynette songs of all time is He Loves Me All the Way. The song was written by Billy Sherrill, Norro Wilson and Carol Taylor and recorded for Wynette’s 1970 album, Tammy’s Touch. By that time, everything that Tammy touched turned to gold and He Loves Me All the Way proved no exception. Released as the album’s second single in April 1970, it became Wynette’s seventh number one on the country charts, hanging onto the top spot for three weeks and staying in the charts for 14 weeks in total. It was also a minor crossover success, reaching number 97 on the Billboard Hot 100.
9. The Ways to Love a Man
Within just a few years of securing a record deal, Wynette had already transformed from an unknown into one of the leading ladies of country A year after releasing the massive D.I.V.O.R.C.E, she was back doing what she did best with the lovely The Ways to Love a Man. The song hung around the country charts for an impressive 15 weeks in total, peaking at number 1 – her sixth time at the top.
8. You and Me
You and Me was written by Billy Sherrill and George Richey, with Richey later confessing that the song was inspired by his secret affection for Wynette. At the time, the singer was still dealing with the aftermath of her divorce from George Jones, but the song clearly did the trick: she and Richey became close friends, and within two years, they were married. You and Me, meanwhile, climbed to the top spot on the country charts – Wynette’s sixteenth and final appearance at number one.
7. Your Love
As tasteofcountry.com notes, by the time Wynette released Your Love in 1987, she was already a legend worthy of Hall of Fame induction. Although her career had slowed down in the 80s (as it had for many artists who’d made their name in the 60s), the album High Ground helped propel her back into the spotlight with its starry list of collaborators, who included Emmylou Harris, Gene Watson, the O’Kanes, and the Gatlin Brothers. On Your Love, which was written to Wynette’s fans for all their years of support, Ricky Skaggs lends his voice to Wynette’s. The result was a top twenty hit (her first major success since 1985’s Sometimes When We Touch) and proof that Wynette’s amazing vocals talents were still as compelling as ever.
6. Apartment No. 9
Apartment No. 9 was written by Fern Foley, Fuzzy Owen and Johnny Paycheck and was originally a top 40 hit for Bobby Austin in 1966. Shortly after Austin released his version, Wynette came along with her own cut. It was her first professional recording, and the one that managed to spike the interest of record producer Billy Sherrill, At the time of its release, it was only a minor success, stalling at number 44 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. But despite its lack of commercial success, it’s considered to be one of her signature songs, with All Music describing it as a “quality gem.”
5. Til I Can Make It on My Own
Wynette wrote Til I Can Make It on My Own along with George Richey and Billy Sherrill, shortly after the end of her rocky marriage to George Jones. Although she’d built her career singing about heartbreak and troubled relationships, here, she talks about moving forward, of looking forward to a new chapter and the day she’ll “look up and see the morning sun/ Without another lonely night behind me.” She later revealed it to be her favorite song, performing it regularly at her live shows for the rest of her life. Released in January 1976, the song became Wynette’s 15th number one on the country charts.
4. I Don’t Wanna Play House
In I Don’t Wanna Play House, Wynette sings from the point of view of a young mother who, fresh from being left by her husband, overhears her daughter telling the little boy next door that she doesn’t want to play house as, after seeing what happened when her parents tried, she doesn’t think it can be much fun. Released just a few months after earning her first number one with My Elusive Dreams, the song took Wynette back to number one, picked up a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance, and cemented Wynette’s status as country’s newest leading light.
3. Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad
Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad was written by Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton and recorded in 1967 during sessions for what would eventually become Wynette’s debut album. The album was strong (All Music describes it as ” one of the classic debuts in country music”) and so was the song, turning Wynette into a heroine with female fans with its empowering message and becoming her breakthrough single, reaching number 3 on the country charts.
No one can work a sad song like Tammy Wynette. She’d had enough complications in her own relationships to know how to sing about them, something she did to memorable effect on this hit from 1968. Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam, the song is narrated from the perspective of a young mother facing the end of her marriage. In an effort to shield her child from the harsh realities of what’s happening, she uses the age-old trick of spelling out words so he doesn’t understand…. words like hell, custody, and divorce. A tearjerker of the best kind, the song became a number one hit and bagged Wynette a Grammy nomination for Best Country Vocal Performance.
1. Stand by Your Man
In at number one on our list of the best Tammy Wynette songs of all time is Stand by Your Man. Co-written by Wynette and Billy Sherrill, the song became Wynette’s career-defining hit, topping the country charts for three weeks and taking the number one place on CMT’s list of the Top 100 Country Music Songs. In 2010, it was selected by the Library of Congress for entry on the National Recording Registry for its cultural and historical significance. It might not always have won much favor with feminists, but as a representation of who Wynette was and what her music has meant to so many people, it’s unbeatable.