By: Wilhelmina Williams (Contributor)
Barbara Ann Mandrell was born December 25, 1948 in Houston, Texas. She is considered one of the most successful female country artists of the ‘70s and ’80s, despite being widely unknown among newer country fans.
Her extensive career began as a young child playing multiple instruments touring with superstars like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and George Jones. Before her solo career began she toured with her family band as well.
Mandrell’s debut solo album, Treat Him Right, was released in 1971. She released 25 studio albums from 1971 to 1997. Eight albums charted in the Top 10 in U.S. Country, with all but seven breaking into the top 50 on the U.S. Country charts. Her singles include 27 top 10 hits, including 7 No. 1s.
Mandrell has been a Grand Ole Opry member since 1972 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009. She was also the first woman inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014 and the first artist to win CMA Entertainer Of The Year for two consecutive years.
With musical talent to spare and the ability to transform songs of any genre with her own signature country style, it’s no surprise that she has won multiple GRAMMYs, People’s Choice Awards, Country Music Awards and more. For being ‘Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool’, we dedicate this week to the inimitable, Barbara Mandrell.
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I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) is an R&B hit written and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. Other notable covers of the song include Ike and Tina Turner (for the album What You Hear Is What You Get: Live at Carnegie Hall) and The Rolling Stones. Barbara Mandrell’s version was included on her first studio album, 1971’s Treat Him Right and was her first single to chart.
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(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right was originally written by Stax Records songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, and Raymond Jackson for The Emotions, but the groups version of the recording was never released. Barbara Mandrell included her version on the 1978 album, Moods, which reached No. 8 on the U.S. Country charts. The song was Mandrell’s second No.1 hit. Luther Ingram also found success with his own recording of the song.
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Barbara Mandrell’sfirst No. 1 hit, Sleeping Single in a Double Bed was also the first single from the album Moods. The song was written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan. Mandrell won the American Music Award for Favorite Country Single for the song in 1980.
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Another Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan writing collaboration, I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool was Barbara Mandrell’s first No. 1 hit of the ‘80s. Though not listed, George Jones makes a guest appearance in the recording of the song, shortly after being mentioned in the lyrics. The song’s success is largely credited with contributing to Mandrell’s winning Entertainer of the Year from the Country Music Association in 1981. The track’s album, Barbara Mandrell - Live, reached No. 4 on the U.S. Country charts and was certified Gold.
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Percy Sledge first sang When A Man Loves A Woman in 1966 after Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright penned the track. It was a No. 1 hit then and again in 1991 when Michael Bolton recorded his own version. While Barbara Mandrell’s version, from the 1991 album Key's in the Mailbox, did not chart, it was a return to the stylistic choice of putting her classic country emphasis on popular music that she was well-known for throughout her early career.
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Happy Birthday Dear Heartache, written by Archie Jordan and Mack David, made it all the way to No. 3 for Barbara Mandrell. The song was released as the first single on 1984’s Clean Cut, the 15th studio album she released. The album would make it all the way to No. 8 on the charts.