Written by By El Puerquito Magnifico
Throughout the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Tammy Wynette reigned supreme as the First Lady of Country Music, racking up an impressive 20 #1 hits. It’s downright insulting to refer to her as anything less than a legend, so it’s quite appropriate that the folks at the Country Music Hall of Fame put together a collection of memorable live interpretations of her biggest hits to be included in their Legendary Performances series.
This hour-long DVD includes 15 performances from 1967 all the way through 1981. They’re taken from a variety of sources including The Bill Anderson Show, The Wilburn Brothers Show, and even one or two from a show you may have actually heard of, such as a rendition of her legendary song “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” from the 1968 Country Music Awards. There are even a couple of duets with her then-husband George Jones.
This is classic country music at its finest. Honest-to-goodness country music, not the B-grade Richard Marx songs dressed up with a steel guitar and a fancy hat that passes for country music these days. This DVD will act as a reminder to some of the golden days of music and will hopefully serve as a lesson plan for those interested in what “country” actually sounds like. There’s no line dancing on this DVD, no washed-up ‘80s hair bands covering up their bald spots with cowboy hats. These are introspective songs about hard times and lessons learned: songs to get drunk and cry to while contemplating walking out on your jerk of a husband who’s been out at the bar with his buddies far too long and far too often. These are real songs about real life and you won’t find a “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” among them.
You won’t find a whole lot to be happy about either. I don’t mean that in terms of the performances, as there’s not a bad one in the bunch. What I mean is that listening to an hour’s worth of Tammy Wynette didn’t exactly leave me ready to jump up and dance. Sixty minutes worth of songs about heartache, heartbreak, drinking, and carousing didn’t make me too proud to be a man. Even if you don’t know anything about the woman’s personal life, it all comes out in the performances. Her firm jaw and steely eyes punctuate songs like “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind),” and “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad.” The honesty of her voice assures you that Wynette isn’t simply singing a song; she’s lived it. In fact, by the time she gets around to singing her classic “Stand By Your Man,” you may find yourself shouting at the television, “No, don’t stand by him! He’s scum! He’s a loser! Leave the bum!” Or maybe that’s just me.
This DVD is also a fascinating history lesson in terms of style. We start out in the grainy black-and-white of the late ‘60s with big bouffant hairdos and Nudie suits and make our way through the polyester and sideburns of the ‘70s before ending up in sequined evening gowns of the ‘80s. Throughout all of it, the one thing that remains is Wynette’s incredible voice. She sounds just as good in 1981 as she did in 1967. It’s a testament to her talent and another example of why she is due the accolades heaped upon her.
The extras on this DVD include Wynette’s 1998 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and a couple of old interviews with her. It also includes what appears to be local news footage from her 1978 marriage to George Richey, the man she referred to as the love of her life. This footage is awesome and not unlike watching your aunt and uncles’ home movies of their wedding, complete with ruffled polyester tuxes and magnificently blow-dried hairdos.
The fine folks at SHOUT! Factory and the Country Music Hall of Fame have done an excellent job in preserving these great performances for future generations. I found this DVD to be well worth the time I invested in it and a great addition to the collection of a music fan.