When it comes to female country artists, few can be talked about with more respect than Tammy Wynette.
She and Loretta Lynn are credited with really bringing the female perspective to a genre that was long dominated by men (and still is to some extent), with songs like “Stand By Your Man,” “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” and “I Don’t Want To Play House” being just a few hits that really help define who she was as an artist.
Raised near Tremont, Mississippi, Wynette was always interested in a music career while working on her family’s cotton farm, performing throughout her teen years before marrying her first husband, Euple Byrd, at age 17.
This started a string of marriages, each one with more than its share of issues. She divorced Byrd and moved to Nashville to pursue music full-time in 1965. She released her first single, “Apartment No. 9” a year later and had her first commercial success in 1967 with “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad.”
The same year she earned her first ever number one with “I Don’t Want To Play House,” which also lead to her first Grammy, winning the 1968 award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
But 1968 will be best remembered as the year she released her 4th studio album, whose title track lives on through today as one of the defining songs in country music history.
D-I-V-O-R-C-E was Tammy’s first number one album and was named after a song written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman which Tammy later reflected on for the 2010 book Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen, saying “I hated myself for not writing that song. It fit my life completely.”
“D-I-V-O-R-C-E” peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart this day 55 years ago and still goes down as one of the saddest and most relatable songs in the genres history.
It’s a tale of a marriage ending and the harsh conversations that come with it, including who will have custody over the couple’s child.
The parents take turns spelling words they don’t want him to hear so the reality of the situation doesn’t set in, which just makes it that much harder to go through with the process, knowing that their little boy will be torn up when he realizes what’s going on.
“Our little boy is four years old and quite a little man
So we spell out the words we don’t want him to understand
Like T-O-Y or maybe S-U-R P-R-I-S-E
But the words we’re hiding from him now
Tear the heart right out of me.
Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today
Me and little J-O-E will be goin’ away
I love you both and this will be pure H-E double L for me
Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”
This song would also somewhat predict more marriage troubles down the road for Tammy, who ended up married 5 times, including to George Jones, with the two becoming maybe the most iconic couple in country music history.
You can read all about their ups and downs here, but for now, let’s kick back and enjoy this all-time classic one more time.