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Why Was the Song Stand By Your Man Controversial?

Why Was the Song Stand By Your Man Controversial?

Many have considered Stand By Your Man a controversial song since its release.

However, musicians ruffling feathers with lyrics isn’t anything new. So, why were so many offended by the words of this country tune?

Today, we’re looking at what made this ditty such a hellraiser.

Let’s dive in!

Who Originally Wrote Stand By Your Man?

Tammy Wynette, born Virginia Wynette Pugh, penned the lyrics to the controversial song Stand By Your Man. 

Growing up on a cotton farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi, made her no stranger to hard work. At one time or another, she picked cotton, waited tables, did hair, and worked in a shoe factory. 

Despite working long shifts, she woke up at 4 AM to sing on a local TV Show, Country Boy Eddie. The opportunity gave her regular exposure as an artist.

After a difficult first marriage and divorce, she packed up everything and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. With no job or home and three small children, failing in the music industry wasn’t an option. As we can see now, this was a fantastic career decision.

Billy Sherril of Epic Records heard her demo and gave her a shot. The label helped with the release of her first single, Apartment #9, and changed her name to Tammy. Her listeners found they could relate to the honesty of the lyrics, which were about everyday happenings. Nothing was off limits, including parenting, divorce, and loneliness. 

Shortly after the controversial release of Stand By Your Man in 1968, she married George Jones. The two were a country power couple and created songs and a child together during their seven-year relationship.

Unfortunately, George’s love for drinking was too much for it to last. After their separation, she went through a series of unions and finally wedded her former manager, George Richey, in 1978. They remained married for the rest of her life.

Over her career, Wynette recorded 11 albums that rocketed to #1 on the charts. She also won two Grammys and three CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards. 

What Was Tammy Wynette’s Creative Process for Stand By Your Man?

Tammy was an incredible singer and songwriter. It’s said that Stand By Your Man only took 15 to 20 minutes for the artist and her collaborator, producer Billy Sherrill, to create.

Billy had been carrying the basic framework of the tune in his back pocket. However, the real magic occurred when the two combined their talents on the project. She took the idea and put her personal touches on it. They recorded the track on the first take by the end of the day.

Despite being a controversial song, she insisted there was no political motive or hidden message. It’s a simple ballad about the intense love and connection between a woman and a man.

Wynette initially wasn’t excited about it as it was unlike anything she had created. The biggest concern was it becoming a hit and having to hit an extremely high note for the rest of her career.

Did Tammy Wynette make our list? 5 Greatest Women in Country Music.

Why Was Stand By Your Man So Controversial?

Stand By Your Man was considered a controversial song because of the women’s liberation movement. This political movement began in the late 1960s and continued into the 1970s.

The pro-woman movement felt the lyrics reinforced women stepping aside or putting themselves second to men. Some even thought it encouraged wives to be compliant and tolerate indiscretions from their husbands.

While Wynette sympathized with those with this opinion, she claimed it was not the intended message. The artist always insisted that the tune was a love ballad about a deep relationship.

Growing up in the South, Tammy experienced much of what her opponents complained about. Despite what she wrote, she wasn’t afraid to say that women deserve equal treatment to men. However, she also stated some things, specifically manual labor, were more suitable for men. 

She preferred to remain feminine and enjoy the courtesies that came with it. Things like having a male light a cigarette, open a door, or pull out her chair were worth a few inequalities.

In her 1979 autobiography, she continued to defend it. To her mind, it wasn’t as much about a woman taking a backseat to men. When they inevitably don’t live up to expectations, she thought, they should be forgiven. 

As the final line in the controversial song says, “‘Cause after all, he’s just a man.”

With all the controversy surrounding the song, it’s surprising that it’s been recorded by many other artists. In fact, some of them have made it to the top of the charts on their own.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner was another female powerhouse in the music industry. Her cover of Stand By Your Man combined the country vibe with her raspy vocals and rock influences. It kicks it up a notch and adds more excitement.

It’s worth noting that if anyone can relate to sticking through a difficult relationship, it’s Tina Turner. For better or worse, she stuck by Ike Turner’s side for their 16 years of marriage. You can feel the intensity and passion as she belts out the lyrics.

Deep Dive: Who Discovered Tina Turner?

Elton John

In 1998, legendary musician Elton John offered a unique spin on the song. The track appeared on a tribute album to Wynette. As you might expect, his version highlights his smooth voice and piano skills. It strays away from the original feel and offers a more rock and pop sound. 

His cover exposed the song to a new audience of listeners. Those who may not care for the twang of country music got a chance to enjoy it.

Lyle Lovett

Another artist who covered Stand By Your Man was Lyle Lovett. His version appeared on the album Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.

This version sticks relatively close to the original but with a male lead singer. You’ll hear the familiar sound of the lap steel guitar in the background and the bouncing bass notes. While not that different, it provides a unique listening experience.

Lovett’s crisp voice communicates the emotions of a desperate and imperfect guy in a relationship.

What Happened to Tammy Wynette?

Following a hysterectomy in 1970, Wynette’s health declined over the rest of her life. She developed complications that led to chronic pain she treated with Valium and Demerol. Instead of taking a break from the road, she began relying on these drugs to mask the pain.

It became a serious problem and began to impact her while on stage in the 1980s. Members of her band grew accustomed to covering for her. The group even used the phrase “Virginia’s in the house” to communicate with each other that she was doped up.

Despite her public battle against addiction, the cards were stacked against her. The artist’s daughter, Georgette, has said that she feels George Richey used the drugs to control her mother. In her 2011 book, she mentioned him administering and withholding the medications without consent. 

No matter what she did, she could never kick the habit. She abused pain medication until the end of her life.

She died in her sleep on April 6, 1998.

Read her biography. Tammy Wynette – Tragic Country Queen.

If You Can Forgive Them, It Might Be Worth A Second Chance

Stand By Your Man may be a controversial song, but its message is still relatable today. Relationships can be messy and complicated, but running at the first sign of trouble isn’t always the answer. Wynette’s lyrics communicate about deep love that’s generous with forgiveness. 

While we can stand by the song’s popularity, we encourage anyone in an abusive or unhealthy situation to find a safe way out.