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Flashback: Watch Tammy Wynette Spell Out ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’

Forty-nine years ago today, Wynette recorded the now-classic Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman weeper

By 1968, Tammy Wynette had married her first husband and scored two Number One singles – a duet with David Houston called “My Elusive Dreams,” followed by her first solo chart-topper, “I Don’t Wanna Play House.” Throughout the year, the singer with the distinctive tear-soaked catch in her voice would experience several ups and downs, many having to do with marital discord. Forty-nine years ago today, Wynette entered Nashville‘s Columbia Recording Studios to record “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” a song that writer Bobby Braddock had originally envisioned quite differently. 

“I had a song called ‘I L-O-V-E-Y-O-U (Do I Have to Spell It Out for You)’ and hit kind of a snag,” Braddock told Rolling Stone Country in 2015. “I got the idea of a couple that spells in front of their kid so the kid won’t hear all this disturbing stuff about his parents getting a divorce. Months went by and nobody recorded it. I asked Curly Putman why nobody was recording the song. He said the melody for the title line was too happy. The melody I had for the song was sort of like a soap commercial.”

With Braddock’s lyrics and Putman’s “lonesome, sad voice” leading the way to a revised melody, their “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was final, earning Braddock his first Number One as a songwriter and Wynette her third consecutive Number One as a solo act. In 1973, she filmed a live performance of the song in Cypress Park, Florida. In the above clip, Wynette is dressed in a floor-length gown, delivering the song’s angst-riddled lyrics to an audience seated on grass, many wearing short sleeves and sporting sunglasses.

Two months after “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” hit the top spot, Wynette split from husband Don Chapel and began a relationship with singer George Jones, announcing that they were married on August 22nd, although the union wasn’t actually official until six months later. Wynette and Jones divorced in 1975, after which she was wed – and divorced – three times, marrying husband number five, George Richey, in 1978. Wynette passed away in her sleep on April 6th, 1998, at just 55 years old. Richey, to whom she was married at the time of her death, died in 2010.

For his part in Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” Braddock muses, “Looking back on it now, I think the song’s pretty corny. But I was glad to have it.”


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