100 Greatest Women, #97: Barbara Fairchild

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March 15, 2008

100 Greatest Women

#97

Barbara Fairchild

Much like Jeannie Kendall was locked into cheating songs as soon as “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” topped the charts, country and gospel star Barbara Fairchild found herself trapped singing childish songs because of her breakthrough hit and only #1 single, “Teddy Bear Song.”

Fairchild had spent ten years seeking her big break, recording for Norman records in St. Louis, Missouri before finally moving to Nashville in 1968. She quickly signed with Kapp Records, and soon moved on to MCA, still looking for that elusive hit. Even when legendary producer Billy Sherrill signed her to Columbia, she would spend four years recording minor hits without much luck.

Then, in 1973, she sang a plaintive song about wishing she was a teddy bear, a childish conceit that overshadowed the fairly dark lyrics of the song. At one point, she laments that if she was a teddy bear, then “no one would know the mess that I’ve made with my life.” No doubt, many radio listeners missed the desperation in the lyric, as Fairchild sang it in a sing-song voice that approached nursery rhyme territory.

After that first big hit netted her a Grammy nomination and some crossover airplay, Fairchild followed up with “Kid Stuff”, a #2 single that found her wishing for the days when being hurt by a male just meant losing game in the backyard. She was easily typecast as the girl who sang kid-themed songs, after releasing “Baby Doll” and “Little Girl Feeling” the following year.

But in due time, Fairchild was releasing some of the more provocative and challenging female records of the time period. She released the lightly feminist “I Just Love Being a Woman” in 1975, and had her last significant hit a year later with “Cheatin’ Is”, a bitingly accurate account of the ones who pay the price when cheating goes down.

In 1978, she barely dented the chart with “She Can’t Give it Away”, a tale of an aged lady of the night who can’t find anyone willing to take for free what she used to sell. Later that year, a very young Pam Tillis scored her first chart hit as a songwriter, when Fairchild’s recording of “The Other Side of the Morning” hit #72.

Her country hit run dying down was ironically a blessing for her career, as Fairchild found new life as a successful gospel singer. She became a regular on Christian television shows, including quite a few appearances on the program of Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker. She also recorded an inspirational album with fellow country music veterans Connie Smith and Sharon White called Love Never Fails. As is the case with many stars of the same era, Fairchild currently records and performs in Branson, Missouri.

Barbara Fairchild

Essential Singles

  • “Teddy Bear Song” – 1973
  • “Kid Stuff” – 1973
  • “Cheatin’ Is” – 1975
  • “She Can’t Give it Away” – 1978

==> #96. Allison Moorer

<== #98. Jeannie Kendall (The Kendalls)

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List

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Category: 100 Greatest Women, Features

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  1. Jordan StaceyNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, I forgot about her, I’m amazed she made the list, interesting.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Fairchild had a “run” of three top ten singles (“Teddy Bear Song”, “Kid Stuff” and “Baby Doll) with Teddy Bear and Kid Stuff reaching #1 on at least one national chart and then it was over. Personally I feel that “Standing In Your Line” , “Mississippi” and “Cheating Is” were her three best numbers but she got lost at Columbia/Epic behind stronger female singers and an unbelievably good roster of male singers.

    Her career on the charts is virtually identical to that of Gary Stewart – they each charted exactly 30 times, with three top tens (consecutive) and two that went to #1 on at east one national chart . Steward had six other top 20s whereas Fairchild had only two more top twentys so he pulls slightly ahead of her – each had a chart span of about 16 years. Even the biggest Barbara Fairchild fan wouldn’t have her any higher than this – and I’d never rate her ahead of Jeannie Kendall or Allison Moorer

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