Today is International Women’s Day. Historically speaking, country music has never enjoyed a reputation for being socially progressive.
For the general public, the definitive statement the genre made was “Stand By Your Man.” That Tammy Wynette classic is often cited as country music’s counterpoint to the women’s liberation movement, although Wynette wrote the thing in fifteen minutes without any agenda in mind. She just needed a song to sing.
I generally consider the classic country era to have ended with the seventies, preceding the Urban Cowboy and New Traditionalist movements. What follows are some of the best deliberate statements made by country artists during those years in support for women’s rights. Some were big hits. Some were not. But they were all ahead of their time and are still interesting to listen to today.
100 Greatest Women
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.”