Classic Country Singles: Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man”

Stand By Your Man
Tammy Wynette
1968

Written by Billy Sherrill and Tammy Wynette

It was a seminal moment in a career filled with them, but the recording of “Stand by Your Man“ has contributed considerably to the world of country music. It caused the questioning of gender roles and stirred up dialogue about how far a woman’s heart can stretch in the face of her man’s transgressions.

“Stand by Your Man” was reportedly written in 15 minutes, the creation of Wynette and her producer, Billy Sherrill. Wynette’s gorgeous performance is sympathetic yet strong.  As always, Wynette possesses a heartbreaking quality in her voice, but still remains as calm as ever. Her declaration of love for her man is powerful, despite the admission of his sinful dealings. The song is an ode to a faithful, supportive wife and the understanding that her man has faults and failing, but she will continue to stay by his side. Feminists criticized the song, believing it was belittling to women, but Wynette defended the song profusely. Her intent, she said, was to call women to forgive their wayward men.

Following shortly after her great breakup ballad, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” the ode to loyalty soon became what Sherrill would call her signature song. Released as a single in late 1968, the song reached No. 1 on the country chart for three weeks, and also became a No. 19 pop hit. The classic anthem to faith and fidelity also won Wynette her first Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female in 1969.

New controversy marked the song in the early 1990s when soon-to-be First Lady Hillary Clinton told CBS’ 60 Minutes that she “wasn’t some little woman ‘standing by my man’ like Tammy Wynette.” Wynette demanded an apology, and Clinton retracted her statement. Later, in a gesture of reconciliation, Wynette performed at a Clinton fundraiser.

Different perceptions surround the song, but Wynette’s portrayal of a forgiving woman evoked strength and power, lending evidence to the belief that “Stand By Your Man” is till-death-do-you-part devotion rather than blind faith in a faltering love.

“Stand By Your Man” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.

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21 Comments

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21 Responses to Classic Country Singles: Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man”

  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    The perfect confluence of a great song, a capable singer amd great production.

    Tammy Wynette never sounded as good with other producers as she did with Bully Sherrill, who knew Tammy’s limitations as a vocalist and knew how to cover up or otherwise disguise those limitations. Tammy had the quintessential tear in her voice that so many of today’s female singers lack. Tammy’s signature sound stood her in good stead up to the end.

    The song itself is capable of being interpreted in many different ways – David Allen Coe and Elton John both recorded the song – and each interpretation is 100% correct

  2. Your momentum with these things is blowing my mind, Blake, and the writing just keeps getting better. Keep it up.

  3. There really are a lot of great versions of the song, Coe’s and John’s among them. I’d add Lyle Lovett and the Chicks to the list.

    Elton John famously gave Wynette an autographed picture, signing it “To the Queen of Country Music, from the Queen of England.”

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Yeah, that’s too funny! I love the Chicks version too.

    Dan, you’re right about Blake!

  5. Not to take anything away from what is deservedly a classic single, but my favorite version of this song, by far, is by R&B singer Candi Staton.

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Jonathan,
    That’s certainly a groovy version.

  7. Jonathan,
    Well, that was an immediate iTunes purchase.

    Very interesting lyrical change that alters the feel of the song (“He’s giving all the love he can.”) Good stuff.

    Oh, and yes, Blake’s awesome. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

  8. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    For me too, Jonathan. I love the production!

  9. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    Dan,

    Your check is in the mail.

    Best,

    Blake

  10. Come on, Blake. You’re both in Nashville. Just buy him a grilled cheeseburger at Rotier’s.

  11. Glad you all are digging the Candi Staton cover! If you’re a fan of vintage Southern Soul recordings, there’s a UK-import collection of some of Staton’s work that’s truly essential. In addition to “Stand by Your Man,” she also does what I’d argue is the definitive reading of “In the Ghetto.” Elvis even famously wrote her a letter that said how much better he liked her version of the song.

  12. Alas, Elvis didn’t live to hear the truly definitive version of “In the Ghetto”, sung by Eric Cartman.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awcbWl7bOA8

  13. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Yes, a truly touching rendition

  14. I can’t believe I forgot about an interpretive vocalist of such power and grace. I love his work with the group Faith+1, as well.

  15. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    With respect to Tammy’s original classic version of “Stand By Your Man”–the lyric of the song that I think outraged feminists (and even some of Tammy’s fellow female country singers) is “But if you love him, you’ll forgive him.” This isn’t to say that one side was more right than the other, but I do think that Tammy unwittingly treaded a fine socio-political line with the song.

    And yet, the fact that the song did stir passions in its day, and still does now in some quarters, speaks to its continued durability, in my opinion.

  16. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    With the spate of non-country acts recording in Nashville, Cartman would be a natural.

    Dan, keep it up and I just might throw in a few french fries.

  17. PeterNo Gravatar

    I would love to hear Eric’s version of Bob That Head

  18. Elton John is actually a living legend, what a great musical artist he is.*-‘

  19. I don’t think this song belittles women at all. I think a woman who stands by her man is a very strong and admirable character.

  20. Tom PNo Gravatar

    I think Tammy does not get as much credit as she should in country music. “Stand By Your Man” to me is THE essential country song. My #1 country song of all time depends on my mood, but this song is often my #1, and always in my top 10. One of the rare songs that you never tire of.