100 Greatest Women, #79: Margo Smith

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April 15, 2008

100 Greatest Women

#79

Margo Smith

One of the long-held beliefs in the country music industry was that a woman couldn’t be too sexual with her image. If she did, the female audience that made up the lion’s share of the format’s fans would see her as a threat, and wouldn’t buy her records. Now, Shania Twain certainly put that silly theory to bed, but Margo Smith is one singer who can claim from her own experience that there might have been some truth to that theory, at least in the late seventies and early eighties.

Margo Smith couldn’t have had a more wholesome image when she launched her career in 1975. She had spent the sixties as a kindergarten teacher, singing little songs to her young students. From childhood, she had been a yodeler, and she always worked that sound into the songs she wrote. She recorded a demo that started to circulate around Nashville in the early seventies, and when she signed with 20th Century Records, she had a top ten hit right out of the gate with “There I Said It.”

Two more singles for that label failed to meet expectations, but a label switch to Warner Bros. found her heating up the charts again. She had a sweet, wholesome image that neatly complemented the vulnerable #1 hits “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” and “It Only Hurts For a Little While.” By the end of 1978, she had been a regular on country radio for four years.

It was then that she released the sexually charged “Still a Woman”, which found a middle-aged woman declaring to her husband that she can be just as fiesty as that hot young girl that’s caught his attention. With that hit came a new image, finding Smith wearing low-cut dresses that she referred to as saloon-style. She candidly spoke about sex in interviews, claiming that any woman her age who says she doesn’t think about sex is a liar. When she released her 1981 album, Diamonds and Chills, most of the LP jacket was dedicated to her plunging neckline.

Somewhere along the way, she stopped having hits. Her last solo trip to the top twenty came in early 1980, with “The Shuffle Song.” After that, it was all downhill. Smith figured that she’d taken the new image too far, and came to regret that choice, but she soon returned to her wholesome image, and found a new avenue for success.

In 1985, Smith became one of the first country artists to see the potential of television marketing. She released an album called The Best of the Tennessee Yodeler, which paid tribute to Bonnie Lou. The album was sold solely through television ads, and it did very well for her.

Following the path of many other artists of her time, she moved into gospel music. For the past two decades, she has been performing Christian Country music, sometimes solo, and sometimes with her daughter, Holly. She continues to play dates in the south, and released a new album, Nothing to Lose, in 2005.

Margo Smith

Essential Singles

  • “There I Said It”, 1975
  • “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You”, 1977
  • “It Only Hurts For a Little While”, 1978
  • “Little Things Mean a Lot”, 1978
  • “Still a Woman”, 1979

Essential Albums

  • Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You (1978)
  • A Woman (1979)

==> #78. Goldie Hill

<== #80. Jessi Colter

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List

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  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I liked Margo Smith as a singer but aside from her ability to yodel, she was nothing special as a vocalist . She had some good songs (ofter remakes of earlier pop standards) but when her material faded so did she. I really don’t remember her “image change” drawing much comment at all and I listened to a lot of country radio stations, all over the country, during that time period.

  2. I had the great honor of meeting Margo Smith in a beauty shop in Clearwater, Fl., where she was preparing for her show at Ruth Eckerd hall. She was very gracious and even called her husband to have him bring two cd’s for me and autographed them. We sat and visited like old friends waiting for her husband to pick her up. I love her voice and her ability to yodel is remarkable. I knew it was she as soon as I heard her speaking to the hairdresser. I couldn’t believe it. I told her that she sounded like Margo Smith and she said, “really… who is she?” I said ,” she is a country singer from Nashville and the best yodeller ever. She smiled, shook my hand and said, ” hi, I’m Margo Smith.” Well, that just made my day. I was at the beauty shop getting a “lift”, my husband was very sick and I was his caregiver… Well, that incident gave me a boost for sure. Thank you Margo, you are a sweet, sweet lady. I hope your grandson is doing well. God bless.
    Marlene Watso40 Loafers lane
    Ogdensburg, NY
    13669

  3. Keep singing, Margo, keep singing. I love it!!!!

  4. My friend Joyce, is learning to yodel now because I introduced your music to her.

  5. Marilyn BaileyNo Gravatar says:

    I have listened to Margo Smith’s music since the 70′s and enjoyed her albums, now CDs…she is a classy lady and a beautiful songstress and yodeler. You are so fortunate to have met her Marlene, but I would picture Margo being just as you described in your post…
    God Bless Margo and her family!!!

  6. lisaNo Gravatar says:

    I remember Margo Smith back in the middle 70′s. She was at a small fair in Delevan or Hopedale Illinois ,I believe she was going to be playing her music that day. I met her on stage and asked her for her autograph and she gave it to me on the back of a envelope.Wow!, thats was about 35 years ago.I was 14 at the time.

  7. Brain RawleNo Gravatar says:

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