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.