Virginia Wynette Pugh was born 78 years ago Tuesday, on May 5th, 1942, at the home her grandfather built on land in tiny Tremont, Mississippi, close to the Alabama border. She would eventually be known as Tammy Wynette, one of the most influential female vocalists in the history of country music. But when it comes to the woman who so convincingly sang, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” in the opening line of perhaps her most famous song, “Stand by Your Man,” it’s not hard to imagine just how hard when you consider Wynette was married five times, suffered numerous health issues, and died at 55 on April 6th, 1998.
In the final years of her life, Wynette continued to perform live, although her singles and albums were not selling as well as they had during her peak years. That rarely, if ever, stopped her from wringing every drop of passion and emotion out of the songs she sang, right up until the very last recording of her life, a cover of Brian Wilson’s brilliant 1963 tune that conveys loneliness and solitude at the same time it suggests peace and comfort. Recorded for a never-released second volume of the Beach Boys’ country-pop duets project Stars & Stripes, Wynette’s version of “In My Room” is simply one glorious, heartbreaking way to cap a spectacular recording career. Listen to Wynette hits the uncharacteristically high notes at the end of the song.
Months after Wynette’s death, a sparkling tribute album, Tammy Wynette Remembered, was released featuring her best-known songs performed by Elton John (“Stand by Your Man”), Trisha Yearwood (“’Til I Get It Right”), Rosanne Cash (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E”), and others. With her previously unavailable version of “In My Room” as its closing track, Tammy Wynette left us the way we first found her, with a tragic tear in her voice and an unquenchable fire in her soul.