100 Greatest Women, #6: Reba McEntire

100 Greatest Women

#6

Reba McEntire

Her rise to the top was slow, with four years passing before her first top ten single and a decade before she earned her first gold album. But with time, Reba McEntire would emerge as country music’s most popular female artist, with a longer run at the top than any other female hit-maker in history. Along the way, she made the transition from singer to entertainer, becoming a powerful force on both the stage and screen.

McEntire was born and raised in Oklahoma, the daughter of a championship steer roper. As a child, she joined brother Pake and sister Susie in The Singing McEntires, but she also pursued her family rodeo tradition. Back then, the only competition open to women was barrel racing, and she became an adept competitor. By 1974, she was majoring in education at an Oklahoma university, but still singing in her spare time. That year, she sang the national anthem at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City, which led to her discovery by Red Steagall.

The industry veteran pushed her to pursue a Nashville recording contract, and with his help, the young redhead recorded some demonstration tapes during her spring break from college. Mercury Records was impressed, and she joined their roster in late 1975. Thus began the slowest ascent to superstardom of any woman in country music history, as her debut single “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand” stopped at #88 in 1976. Three more singles fared no better, but all four were included on her debut album Reba McEntire, which also included covers of Roger Miller’s “Invitation to the Blues” and Patsy Cline’s “Why Can’t He Be You.”

McEntire got her first taste of success in 1978, when a double-sided single of duets with Jacky Ward reached #20, one of which was a cover of the pop hit “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.” This gave a boost to her sophomore set Out of a Dream, which produced five top forty hits, the most successful being her revival of “Sweet Dreams (Of You),” her take on the Patsy Cline hit reaching #19. Later in her career, McEntire would bring the house down when she sang the song a cappella as an encore. Four years after her first single, she finally hit the top ten in 1980, with “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven,” the lead single from her third set, Feel the Fire. She did even better with her fourth album, Heart to Heart. It was her first album to chart, largely on the strength of her first top five hit, “Today All Over Again.”

By this time, McEntire was saddled with a bland country-pop sound, and her producers were telling her to calm down the vocal curlicues in the studio that she let loose on stage. Despite being out of her comfort zone, her songs kept doing better, and her fifth album Unlimited produced her first two #1 singles in 1982, “Can’t Even Get the Blues” and “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving.” However, album sales were still low, and when her sixth album for Mercury, Behind the Scene, produced lower-charting hits than its predecessor, McEntire jumped ship. After seven years with the label, she walked away from Mercury and signed with MCA Records.

At first, her music was still a hot mess. Her debut for MCA, Just a Little Love, was saddled with strings and the production was dated. The title cut was a top five hit, but the album was a personal disappointment for McEntire, who resolved to change her musical direction. She received support from Jimmy Bowen, who became label president soon after. He later confessed that he was thinking about “dropping the redhead,” but he was impressed by McEntire’s grit when they met for the first time. With his blessing, McEntire set out to make a traditional country record, which she dubbed My Kind of Country. When the producer of the album took off the traditional touches that McEntire had demanded, Bowen intervened and backed up his artist, taking over production duties himself.

The album established McEntire as a force in country music. It produced a pair of #1 singles, “How Blue” and the Harlan Howard classic “Somebody Should Leave,” and was nominated for CMA Album of the Year in 1984. It also kicked off a four-year run at both the CMAs and ACMs in the Female Vocalist races, the longest consecutive run in both shows’ histories. At the ACM’s, McEntire would come back and win three more times after the first run.

McEntire was now gaining acceptance within the industry and was an important force in the new traditionalist movement, but My Kind of Country and its follow-up Have I Got a Deal For You still weren’t selling as well as the awards would suggest. It was McEntire’s 1986 single “Whoever’s in New England” that became the career record she needed, as the ballad was accompanied by a music video that finally helped fans connect the voice they heard on the radio to the woman doing the singing. It served as the title cut for her next album, and won her a Grammy. In the fall of 1986, McEntire became the fourth woman to win CMA Entertainer of the Year. A few months later, Whoever’s in New England became her first gold record, with its successor What am I Gonna Do About You following suit shortly thereafter.

For the rest of the eighties, McEntire was a consistent gold-selling artist, as all of the albums that followed—The Last One to Know, Reba, Sweet Sixteen and Live—cleared that mark. She was a mainstay on country radio, having fourteen #1 hits under her belt, and her live shows were getting more ambitious, incorporating choreography and costume changes. But as McEntire recuperated at home from a difficult pregnancy, she felt a growing need to raise the bar musically. She switched co-producers from Jimmy Bowen to Tony Brown, the new head of her label, and sought to craft a more ambitious sound that could compete with the hot new country acts that had taken over the radio.

The result was Rumor Has It, which would quickly become her highest-selling solo album to date. The multi-platinum set had big hits in “You Lie” and the title cut, but it was her cover of Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy” that became a signature song, accompanied by a music video that bordered on mini-movie. McEntire’s star kept rising, and she was invited to perform on the Academy Awards in 1991. However, shortly before the big night, tragedy struck, as a plane carrying seven members of her band and her road manager crashed, killing all aboard.

McEntire was devastated, and poured her heart into the performance of “I’m Checkin’ Out,” which she did through tears on the Oscars. More so than at any other point in her career, she poured herself into her music, and the result was her 1991 masterpiece For My Broken Heart. The heartbreaking album dealt with issues of loss and missed opportunities, like a housewife who settled down too soon (“Is There Life Out There”), the career woman who missed her chance to settle down (“I Wouldn’t Go That Far”) and the woman who never got a chance to say goodbye (“If I Had Only Known”). The album even dealt with issues of a distant parent (“The Greatest Man I Never Knew”), elderly neglect (“All Dressed Up (With Nowhere to Go)” and mercy killing (“Bobby.”) That it became her best-selling album was nothing short of amazing.

Throughout the early nineties, while young men dominated the country music industry, McEntire was the only woman who competed on the same scale. Her albums It’s Your Call and Read My Mind sold multi-platinum and stimulated sales of her older catalog, resulting in earlier eighties albums going gold and platinum. Her videos were better than anyone’s, and her stage show was a theatrical spectacle that put all other performers – male or female – to shame. She starred in high-rated network specials and sold out arenas across the country. Her autobiography, My Story, was a New York Times bestseller. She won a Grammy and another CMA award for her hit collaboration with Linda Davis, “Does He Love You,” and in 1995, she was named ACM’s Entertainer of the Year, a full nine years after the CMA had given her the same honor.

She endured a backlash when her pop-flavored covers album Starting Over stalled at radio, but it still sold platinum, and she returned with her best album in years in 1996, What If It’s You, highlighted by one of her best singles ever, “The Fear of Being Alone.” In 1997, she co-headlined a popular tour with Brooks & Dunn, which led to their #1 duet the following year, “If You See Him/If You See Her.”

By that time, McEntire had become a popular actress, featured in films on the big screen (Tremors, North, Little Rascals) and small (Gambler IV, Is There Life Out There, Forever Love.) Though she continued to record, releasing a studio album in 1999 and a hits collection in 2001, her attention turned away from recorded music and to the stage. In 2001, she took over the role of Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway. Contrary to the myth often printed in the country music media, Broadway was not taken by surprise with McEntire’s stunning performance in the role, as producers had been clamoring for her to take over the part but were delayed by conflicts with her touring schedule. The theatrical elements of her stage shows had well-prepared her for the daily grind of Broadway performances, and she turned the show into a must-see for the first time, earning a Drama Desk and an Outer Critics award in the process.

McEntire premiered her sitcom Reba the following fall, on the small WB network, and that was a surprise success, running five seasons and firmly establishing her as a television star. The theme song for the show, “I’m a Survivor,” was her last country hit for a couple of years, until she returned to music in 2003 with Room to Breathe. The four-year gap between studio albums was the longest in her career, but she was rewarded with her first solo #1 single in seven years, “Somebody.” The album sold platinum, as did her follow-up compliation, Reba #1′s, in 2005.

Her album Duets fared even better in 2007, becoming her first to top the pop albums chart upon its release. The breadth of McEntire’s influence and popularity was demonstrated by the wide array of collaborators on the project, which included legends like Carole King, pop stars like Kelly Clarkson and Justin Timberlake, and some of the women who claim her as a major influence, like Trisha Yearwood, LeAnn Rimes and Faith Hill.

As of this writing, McEntire has sold more than forty million albums in the United States alone, making her one of the top-selling female artists in history. She has 26 gold albums to her credit, trailing only Barbra Streisand among women and George Strait among country artists. Among the women with the most #1 hits and top ten hits in country music history, she is bested only by Dolly Parton. And while her music has often seemed to take a backseat to her stage and screen career in recent years, she’s probably only one roots album away from renewed critical acclaim. Destined for the Country Music Hall of Fame, and sooner rather than later, McEntire is proof that sometimes, slow and steady really does win the race.

Reba McEntire

Essential Singles

  • “Somebody Should Leave,” 1985
  • “Whoever’s in New England,” 1986
  • “You Lie,” 1990
  • “Fancy,” 1991
  • “For My Broken Heart,” 1991
  • “Is There Life Out There,” 1992
  • “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” 1992
  • “Does He Love You” (with Linda Davis), 1993
  • “The Fear of Being Alone,” 1996

Essential Albums

  • My Kind of Country (1984)
  • Whoever’s in New England (1986)
  • Rumor Has It (1990)
  • For My Broken Heart (1991)
  • What If It’s You (1996)

Industry Awards

  • ACM Top Female Vocalist, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992 & 1995
  • ACM Video (“Whoever’s in New England”), 1987
  • ACM Video (“Is There Life Out There”), 1992
  • ACM Entertainer, 1995
  • CMA Female Vocalist, 1984, 1985, 1986 & 1987
  • CMA Entertainer, 1986
  • Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Whoever’s in New England”), 1987
  • Grammy: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals (“Does He Love You”), 1994

==> #5. Tammy Wynette

<== #7. Patsy Cline

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43 Comments

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43 Responses to 100 Greatest Women, #6: Reba McEntire

  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    What might have been!

    During the 1980s Reba was my favorite active female singer – from about 1990 onward it’s been very hit or miss as far as quality recordings is concerned – I find myself listening to her pre-1990 albums quite often, the post-1990 stuff very rarely as I found the new “pop diva” version of Reba to be nothing special at all. She has a great voice and deserves her high rating based on the her totality of her enormous career but for me, her claim to greatness is founded on her earlier work

    The essential singles:

    New Fool At An Old Game
    I Know How He Feels
    How Blue
    Somebody Should Leave
    Whoever’s In New England
    Little Rock
    One Promise Too Late
    You’re The First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving
    I’m Not That Lonely Yet
    Can’t Even Get The Blues

  2. LeeannNo Gravatar

    I like songs of Reba’s both from the eighties and nineties, but more from the 90s. Once we get into 2000s though, it’s hit or miss for me. No matter what, however, she has an amazing voice.

    I love how she adapted “Sweet Music Man.” She took Kenny Roger’s eighties laiden version and turned it into into something beautiful.

    Her business savvy reminds me of Dolly’s and her TV show was much better than many of the sitcoms that are popular today.

    Just some random thoughts.

  3. ccfNo Gravatar

    I can name the top 5 not sure on the order.

  4. Tony C

    Her influence in taking control of her career in the 80s at a time when no women were doing so is incomparable. The fact that her most recent album is the biggest debut and fastest selling of her career just demonstrates her incredible staying power and ability to continually make herself relevant.

    Musically, I am continually entertained by her 80s and 90s work. Moving into the 00s, the music does take a backseat, with her single choices not being as consistent as before. Still, some tracks from this decade still rank among her best ever (i.e. “Sweet Music Man”, “The Only Promise That Remains”, “He Gets That From Me”, “Once You’ve Learned To Be Lonely)

    She is my favorite country singer. Period. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

  5. LeeannNo Gravatar

    I like “The Only Promise That Remains” too. It actually got me to look into Justin Timberlake’s music, which, of course, is much different than this song.:)

  6. TomNo Gravatar

    reba, no doubt is terrific. not only does she always sound very good but she even has managed to look better and better as the years go by.

    the only thing that hasn’t developped in line with the rest of her multiple talents is her sense of style. when it comes to her outfits more often than not the verdict is: “oh, my god” …and he’d probably answer: “oh no, leave me out of this”.

    as awesome as that legendary “red number” from the cma awards show way back in the 90′ was, calling it a “wild choice” would hardly be an exageration. but at least, it was a statement. meanwhile, she has reached rock-bottom with those clothes and apparel that she promotes on her website – bigger garbage is difficult to find when it comes to female dress items. the “darling-what-you-think-question” has always been a big trap for us guys but in combination with reba-endorsed apparel it becomes a nightmare.

    of course, should reba finally make some progres in style questions, we might get to hear more music from her that does not fall into the hit or miss category anymore and may sound a little more country, too.

  7. LeeannNo Gravatar

    Tom, I don’t think Reba’s choice of clothing style has much impact on her music direction. Even if her clothes remain as they’ve always been, she will still be capable of making compelling music.

  8. TomNo Gravatar

    leeann, reba’s music has not been compelling for quite a while. she’s one of my favourite singers of all genres of all time. I enjoy her acting and her quality as a host is highly enjoyable. but if you strip out the awards that she has won for her great vocal abilities and her qualities as an entertainer there is, from an artistic point of view, not as much left as one might think, given her career spanning over three decades.

    when it comes to pick the right material to produce exceptional albums/music she quite often fell somewhat short, in my view. this is where the individual sense of style comes in and that shortcoming is also reflected in her dress sense.

  9. I agree with Paul. I love Reba almost exclusively for her pre-1990 catalog of tunes. But I did love the duet with Justin.

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  11. CoryNo Gravatar

    Reba was amazing in the mid-late 80s and was excellent in the early 90s as well. But she seemed to just start slipping. Unlike artists like Trisha who continue to make music that can pass the “Emmylou” factor Reba seems to make material that radio will play. Instead of good material regardless that radio will hopefully catch onto.

  12. Jake akaNo Gravatar

    Well there’s no doubt that she is probably the best country entertainer here, and her music is wonderful. I think it’s hard to pin-point when she was at her height, she is definatly a force of strength among women, just seeing how hard she worked to get ‘her’ music recorded is inspiration for all women.

    And you can’t deny her strength after the 1991 Tragedy. For My Broken Heart was probably the best album she had ever made, it was heartbreaking yet excellence at the same time. I love her 2000 work. Room To Breathe was a great album as she had taken a break for a while and it has that energy to it.

    Reba Duets is amazing, possibly her best idea yet. She definatly knows how to market well and still retain a strong image and strong music.

    Maybe she’s not yet the best country singer yet, but she is certianly my favorite of the bunch.

  13. ChadNo Gravatar

    WOW…I can’t believe Reba’s not in the top 5. Nearly every female artist in the last 15 years has cited Reba as a major influence. I agree with others that the quality of songs has ebbed and flowed over the years, and she has sometimes gone for stardom or show over artistry, but she is the consumate story teller. She also fought to sing the story songs and produce them the way they should be–firsts for women. Also, as you highlighted, she is known for her music videos and arguably brought the genre into country music. Other than Dolly, she has more breadth in the broader entertainment industry than any other female country atist. Finally, again as you noted, she has set records for singles and record sales. in not just country but all genres.

    I know who the top 5 are, and I’m discounting their contributions, but WOW…I can’t believe Reba’s not in the top 5. :)

  14. Jake akaNo Gravatar

    I guess we’ll just have to see who are in the Top 5. Although Reba has had her share of hit’s and misses, I’m pretty sure you can just see the strength she has, I know I’m repeating myself btw, haha.

    I think she was the major female country artist to actually change the industry, like she has stated before she respects the women before her as they paved the way for her to be doing what she gets to do. And that’s why many of these new female artists should really thank Reba as she has truely paved the way for woman to get it so that they actually get say on what kind of music they want to sing and make.

    I’m a little excited and scared to see who is in the Top 5, I have some idea but some of iffy. Just have to see.

  15. Reba ahead of Patsy? Let me rephrase… Reba ahead of Patsy?

  16. Reba ahead of Patsy.

  17. But…Reba ahead of Patsy?

    Reba was in a movie about flesh-eating ground worms, and is currently as well know for starring a network sit-com as she is for her singing. I would not feel comfortable putting her, despite her immense talent, ahead of a woman (Cline) who can be described no other way than iconic.

    Cline’s music is absolutely timeless. Her voice transcends the song and takes on a life and a meaning and a legend of its own. Can we say that about Reba? Really?

    I disagree with this placement because I feel like it’s a pragmatic selection. If you add up all the bits and pieces of these two individual careers, sure–Reba comes out on top. But does that mean she’s “greater?”

    I am not trying to downplay the role of Reba. Not at all. But on one hand we have a talented and successful singer, while on the other we have a legend.

  18. I think that a good case could be made for Reba to be #1 on this list. I also think a good case could be made for Patsy to be #1, along with the other women that haven’t been written about yet.

  19. Tony C

    Agreed. Any of the remaining women from Patsy on could top this list based on whatever criteria one person views as valuable. Reba’s overall influence and far-reaching impact on all of entertainment have made her arguably the most successful female country artist ever. And despite her sometimes tendency toward pop-tinged overproduction she undoubtedly gets the history behind country music and knows those who paved the way for her. She is an extraordinary ambassador for the genre.

    The total longevity of her career as a commercially successful artist is unmatched. How many other artists have the best sales numbers of their careers over 30 years after their first album came out? She is a living legend and anyone that doesn’t think she’s impacted the woman’s role in country music is fooled. Just look at the list of female artists who name her as an influence.

  20. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Exactly – you could make a decent case for any of the top seven or eight singers to be number one. Change the criterion to simply “Best Female Singer” and another seven or eight singers also can enter the picture.

    Most influential
    Best Singer
    Pioneer
    Best Show(wo)man

    Much to choose from

  21. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar

    Paul makes an excellent case … While I am not sure exactly what the criteria for this particular countdown was, it’s obvious not every is going to be pleased. And yes, anyone could make a case that the top 8 could very well be number one – Reba could only possibly be behind Dolly in my book. But if I really thought about it, Reba would be number-one for me in more than one of Paul’s requirements above. But that’s just me …

  22. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    It indeed is difficult – using the criteria in my prior post I would come up with four very different lists

    Most influential
    1 Patsy Cline
    2 Kitty Wells
    3 Loretta Lynn
    4 Shania Twain

    Best Singer
    1 Connie Smith
    2 Rhonda Vincent
    3 Patsy Cline
    4 Trisha Yearwood

    Pioneer
    1 Maybelle & Sara Carter
    2 Patsy Montana
    3 Kitty Wells
    4 Jean Shepard

    Best Show(wo)man
    1 Barbara Mandrell
    2 Reba McEntire
    3 Roni Stoneman
    4 Dolly Parton

  23. Reba may be “influential” in the sense that people will cite her as an influence, but I’m not sure that her music is distinct enough that it has a strong influence on the direction of music as a whole, or even as a genre.

    I don’t think either Reba or Patsy should be number one. But that’s beside the point–what I’m arguing here is hierarchy. And I just don’t see how Reba is higher than Patsy. I don’t see their places as being interchangeable, just because of Reba’s commercial success.

  24. GregNo Gravatar

    Jim, I think if Patsy had been with us for a longer time, she would be higher. But Reba has been a powerful force in the music (and entertainment) business for 25years (those first few years she wasn’t doing much). That’s a long time for anybody to be in the business for, plus Reba was the only female artist for a long time that could actually compete head to head with the boys.

    I’m very much liking the list, and for the most part agreeing with your placements. And even if I don’t agree with it, you are backing up your reasons with good valid points. Good job Kevin.

  25. thechasethielbarNo Gravatar

    If you also think about it she did have a tv show, and was on Broadway, these two things may have helped pull more people into country music? I know it did for me.

  26. Jim,
    Reba was part of the new traditionalist movement that brought country music back to its roots in the eighties, which made a huge impact on the direction country music went, and laid the groundwork for the nineties boom.

    I think you’re flat-out wrong that her music wasn’t distinct enough to be a strong influence. Reba’s fingerprints are all over the early albums of Terri Clark, Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack. Clark’s hit “If I Were You” was a blatant re-write of the McEntire album cut “If You Only Knew.”

    That she might be more well-known now for her TV show is beside the point and doesn’t have any bearing on the impact that she’s made with her music, any more than Dolly Parton being best known for her ample cleavage minimizes her musical contributions.

  27. JoeNo Gravatar

    Reba is big time and she brought a lot of recognition to country music as well as video besides all the other avenues she’s dipped into. Her music may not be so influential and groundbreaking as the others such as Loretta, Dolly, or Shania, but she did bring recognition. She’s a fine lady.

  28. Hard TimesNo Gravatar

    I disagree with earlier posts that Reba is a great awards show host. Her jokes are often lame or traffic in redneck stereotypes. Granted, she probably doesn’t write the jokes, but her delivery of them is so over the top it’s embarrassing. And I will never forgive her for what she said at the opening of the 2006 ACM awards: “If the Dixie Chicks can sing with their foot in their mouths, surly I can host this sucker.”

    For one country act to diss another shows zero class. She could have killed the joke if she had wanted to.

  29. “Reba’s fingerprints are all over the early albums of Terri Clark, Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack.”

    Most of which are going to fade into obscurity.

    What’s more is that rather than influencing a few artists or even a generation of artists, Cline has influenced the entire musical landscape.

    Reba was a part of a movement, but I think that movement continues without her. I don’t see country music being a whole lot different if she doesn’t arrive on the scene.

  30. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar

    Have to agree about Terri Clark and Faith Hill’s early albums. I remember the first time I heard Faith Hill’s ‘I Can’t Do That Anymore’ on the radio, I would have sworn it was Reba singing it. And while TC may fade into obscurity (where’s she been lately?), Lee Ann Womack’s return to roots country has secured her a spot in the annals of critical praise – if she never returns to the commercial success she saw at the turn of the century.

    The same goes for Faith Hill. Her celebrity will never fade into obscurity. The contributions she made to country music – while they are few anyway – may soon be forgotten, but the persona that is Faith Hill is here to stay.

    Reba has really been a media darling like no other country star before or since. So many times, a celebrity who is in the public eye as much as Reba McEntire will burn their star out in just a few years. What I find most interesting about Reba is that the public at large is not tired of seeing or hearing Reba yet. There was a time in the mid-90s that she was on the cover of nearly every supermarket checkout magazine on the stands from The Enquirer to Redbook to Good Housekeeping to TV Guide.

    The word overrated comes to mind. That seems to be passed around a lot these days. But really, how can a lady who has forged a career that sees her still competing 25 years plus after her first #1? While most of her contemporaries have long been retired to the road and will never see radio success again, Reba consistently competes with artists who weren’t even born when she first hit. Who else besides King George has had a longer run at the top?

  31. CyndyNo Gravatar

    While I respect your opinion, Hard Times, I don’t agree at all. The jokes are a bit lame at times, but I think Reba’s delivery has only gotten better with time, and the Academy seems to agree since they continually ask her to host. The fact that she’s witty and charming certainly does help some.

    And as far as that whole Dixie Chicks issue goes, I honestly think it was all blown WAY too out of proportion on both ends. Both parties said remarks that could be taken as insults and its only natural that they would shoot back at each other. Lesser people do it every day, I don’t see why this one little spat should garner such hatred from either fanbase. I proudly admit that I am a bigger fan of Reba and was therefore angry over what the Dixie Chicks said, but hey, it happens. I don’t hate them or wish them ill will, the fight is over, even the artists themselves don’t dwell on it, we should all just leave it be.

    But anyway, as far as Reba’s spot is concerned, it would have been nice for her to have been a little higher, but after seeing the women that took those top five spots, I think Reba is in great company. Her influence on not only country music but the entertainment industry in general is undeniable. I can’t count how many people I know who don’t even like country music but still admire her greatly after seeing her show or watching her in South Pacific, a testament to not only her great acting abilities but her ability to draw in fans from all genres as well. And in my humble opinion, her music has always been nothing less than fantastic to me. She also performs spectacularly live and her music videos are continually the best out there. And no one can deny that beauty or incredible charm!

    I don’t know, I just honestly can’t say enough good things about her. Reba is simply amazing. :)

  32. Reba influence on female country music artists is such that she is the current matriarch of country music. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Maetta, Pam Tillis, Lorrie Morgan, and Patty Loveless are like her little sisters. Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and every female artist to debut after them are like Reba’s daughters.

    In a way Reba McEntire was the bridge between two eras for country music female artists. The first of these eras was where woman had to fight for the right to write their songs, produce their own albums, and have a say in their own careers. In the second and present era it is not unusual for such things to happen. Reba McEntire experience both eras, and helped country music females artist win the rights they deserve.

  33. TomNo Gravatar

    at first, i felt the same way as jim malec, when he pointed out that patsy cline should be ahead of reba in such a ranking. but his argument that patsy is a legend (no doubt about that, even though her tragic death helped in building the myth) and reba is “only” a talented and successful singer with limited influence on the genre didn’t sound quite right to me.

    checking out my country cd-collection the result was pretty obvious: since i started to buy music on cd-format (1986), reba and george strait have made by far the biggest impact in my collection, in terms of quantity.

    i am fully aware of the fact that quantity doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with quality, but in reba’s case it has. being the great vocalist that she is, she became the flagship of female country music from the mid-80′ well into the late 90′. her consistant success during that period forced/triggered the labels to find more talented female singers to meet an obviously growing demand in this segment of the market. in fact, her leadership almost made it a “no-brainer” and paved the way for many female artists of whom some even surpassed her in artistic quality, thereby setting new standards for the genre. actually, with reba having been almost permanently on the radio and in the charts, nashville was as open to new female talent as a mid-western barndoor in summer.

    jonathan called her a bridge between two eras, which is a spot-on observation but she was even more. she was like the big plough that enabled some bumper-crops during one of the best and artistically most competitive periods that country music has ever seen. for those, who have never tried to grow something out of a seed, trust me, the rate of sucess is so much higher, when the ground has already been well prepared. i call that nothing less but major influence.

  34. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar

    Well said, Tom. The fact that Reba took charge of her career and started picking her own material at a time when no other female in the business was doing it was a major turning point for women in the music business – country or otherwise. The fact that Reba really broke through when she she selected her own material is a testament to another of her talents and that’s consistently picking great material. While some credit Jimmy Bowen for allowing Ms. McEntire the privilege of visiting the publishing companies herself, the fact remains that it was the songs Reba chose for herself that broke her as an artist.

    And I am surprised that no one has mentioned Reba’s innovating approach to the music video. Her music videos are what drew me to Reba as a fan and then country music as a genre. Not before or since has an artist pushed the envelope to create such characters and vignettes that forever live in our minds as a visual backdrop for the impressive catalog of hits she amassed along the way. I remember seeing the video for ‘Take It Back’ around Christmas 1992 and I was hooked right then and there on Ms. Reba McEntire. She was also the first recipient of the Johnny Cash Video Visionary Award and for good reason. Reba truly revolutionized the way Nashville – and the entire music industry – approached music videos.

  35. I’m sure that I do have favorites, but I find that my favorites change daily. It depends on my mood. Some days I like Reba’s older music, and on other days I like her newer music. There is one thing I know for sure, Reba will always have a place in my heart. For me Reba made country music what it is today. It doesn’t matter if it’s Reba’s music, TV sitcom,movies,or on stage, I love who she is. I think Reba is a very special lady.

  36. MichaelNo Gravatar

    Reba is the QUEEN of Country Music in my opinion! I love her as an entertainer and like someone else wrote, who has been around for thirty years like her and is still going strong (besides George Strait) anyway thank you Reba for giving us so much joy, laughter and entertainment over the years. You truly are a Country Music ICON!

  37. RainbowNo Gravatar

    Reba is my favorite artist, but I think #6 is an appropriate rating for her.

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  40. daniel r drownNo Gravatar

    The irony: With all those #1 country hits and millions of albums, her signature career hit is the #8 country cover of Bobbie Gentry’s’Fancy’.( Bobbie went #31pop,#26 country and #18ac with her original) She has even borowed huge chunks of Bobbie Gentry’s’ famous headlining Vegas act of the 1970′s.( In 1973 I saw Bobbie Gentry comming down from the ceiling at ‘ The Desert Inn’ singing a rousing performance of ‘ Fancy’ that brought down the house too.) The next question is will Reba be involved when ‘ Fancy’ is optioned into a major motion picture? Songwriter Bobbie Gentry( who is a huge Reba fan) holds all then cards.

  41. TravisNo Gravatar

    it’s so funny to read comments in here as if ppl honestly think they are giving professional criticism. Did Reba choose music that would sell versus EMMYLOU versions of songs,, YES, DUH, that’s the point, to survive, to make money, and last…. Emmylou has not lived in the music world so long because of her solo efforts, it’s her backup, harmony on other ppl’s albums that have given her the money to survive this long…….. Reba is not the first to do BIG shows or take control of her career,,, even REBA gives credit to Barbara Mandrell for that….. until Barbara came along there had not been a female act that was in CONTROL of what they sang, what shows they did, what and how things were conducted.. Barbara was not only a singer, but a musician, actress, spokesperson, and business woman…. Reba took note of that and patterned her career after Barbara’s to be more of a business, and it worked…

    I love much of Reba’s work, but I can only listen to so much of her voice before I have to change my music…….I loved the show Reba and found her acting to be very funny, skilled, and well timed for it being her first take at a weekly comedy show. Reba was very expressive with her face, very reminiscent of Lucille Ball, and I give her kudos on that. I catch the show as often as I can. It was great to see Reba do a cameo in her tv daughters new show recently as a wedding planner who stills of the dates for her own wedding…

    Reba deserves to be in the top ten by all means, as with Dolly and Barbara before her, she took the rains of her career, jumped into television and movies and it has landed her in the top for such reasons…….

    but I still stand behind my opinion that Barbara Mandrell deserves to be in the top 5 at least for not only sheer talent and the quality of her shows at the time… was the 80′s for everyone NO, and it gets panned much of the time for being to glitzy and what not but that was the TIME and ppl take 80′s country out of context as if it’s NOW.

    I think even Reba would tell you that Barbara deserves higher on these lists….

  42. CodeNo Gravatar

    Barbara mandrell in front of reba?!!?!? Really….NO, i agree with most of this list, dolly parton definitely deserves to be at the top but i think shania shouldve been higher.

  43. WayneNo Gravatar

    I love Reba but I think Dolly and Loretta nbr 1 and 2 could not have been better placed. i prefer Reba pre late 1990′s work

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