When Martina McBride released her 1992 debut LP, The Time Has Come, critics were quick to label her country music’s next female superstar. Although they would eventually be proven right, it would take one more album for the public to embrace the Kansas native with the powerful pipes.
The Way That I Am, McBride’s sophomore LP, was released September 14th, 1993, and features the singer’s first Top Five hit, “My Baby Loves Me,” which was followed by another Top Ten entry, “Life #9.” Three more singles would be issued from the album, and in spite of just missing the Top Ten, the third release went on to become a signature song for McBride – and one of the greatest country songs of all time.
McBride had already cut another Gretchen Peters composition, the poignant “When You Are Old,” which was the closing track on her previous record. But with “Independence Day,” the startling story of an eight-year-old girl and her mother who flee an abusive relationship, McBride established herself as an artist with a social conscience. While its subject matter may have been too controversial for country radio, the song earned two Grammy nominations and won a pair of CMA awards, for Song and Video of the Year. In 2005, Carrie Underwood covered “Independence Day,” including it as the B-side of her post-American Idol debut single, “Inside Your Heaven.”
In 2003, McBride shared the CMT Crossroads stage with the rocker who was one of her inspirations, Pat Benatar. As two petite singers with rafter-rattling vocal abilities, their collaborative performance of “Independence Day” was the emotional highlight of the concert special.
Earlier this year, Benatar reflected on that experience, noting that at the time she and McBride bonded as working mothers rather than as fellow musicians.
“One of the fun parts of doing that show is I didn’t really spend a lot of time with other females who had children and were doing what we were doing,” Benatar told Rolling Stone Country. “So it was really nice to spend time with another woman who had kids. Once you become somebody’s mother, you’re on a whole other track.”
McBride would soon find herself on a whole other track enjoying pop-chart success with her 1997 LP, Evolution, and the follow-up, Emotion, which included the bubbly “I Love You,” her biggest pop hit to date. She would also continue to deliver music with challenging themes and powerful messages, including the 1998 Number One hit, “A Broken Wing.”
“Independence Day” would become something of a post-9/11 anthem, thanks to its “let freedom ring” refrain, but Peters fought back over its use by Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential campaign. The song’s success, however, did encourage McBride to ally herself with organizations that have continually helped raise awareness of domestic abuse and related issues.