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STEEL MAGNOLIA : Resilience, Not Heartache, Is the Real Root of Tammy Wynette's Success

January 17, 1991|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

If sad songs say so much, Tammy Wynette has said a mouthful in her time.

Wynette, 48, is entering the 25th year of a country music recording career that has tilted decidely toward the tearful side.

From her first hit, "Apartment Number 9," in 1966, it was apparent that Wynette had a gift for dramatizing the feelings of Everywoman, left bereft and aching. "Loneliness surrounds me, without your arms around me. . . . The sun will never shine, in apartment Number 9" was sung with a special emphasis on drawing out the "nine," to underscore how interminable the long hours can be.

"Apartment Number 9" was the start of one of the most extensive country careers on record. Wynette's latest release, "Heart Over Mind," is album Number 52. On it, the tears-to-smiles ratio remains exceedingly high. Of the album's 10 songs, 8 are about love soured or love lost. Of the remaining 2, one tells of a friendship that ends in death; the other is a swelling, anthemic finale in which Wynette's character vows to break down a wall of fear that emotionally paralyzes her beau. Given the outcomes of the songs that go before it, one feels like telling the tune's female protagonist not to get her hopes too high.

If Wynette were only about tears, she would long ago have become tiresome. She remains worth hearing because her body of work is as much about resilience as it is about suffering. Resilience, not piteousness, is the primary quality in Wynette's full-bodied voice, which always seems to convey not only the hurt suffered, but also the strength required to ride it out.

On that score, Wynette has had plenty of practical experience. Her biography reads like the stuff of a made-for-TV film script (in fact, Wynette's life was made into a TV movie 10 years ago). It starts with rural poverty (she was born Virginia Wynette Pugh, into a farming family in Itawamba County, Miss.), encompasses four divorces, a multitude of stomach operations and, two years ago, a declaration of bankruptcy.

Wynette's personal life is said to have stabilized with her 1978 marriage to current husband George Richey. Still, her fund of experience would seem to be far from exhausted if she cares to sing a few more sad ones.


Tammy Wynette.


Monday, Jan. 21,

at 7 and 10 p.m.


Crazy Horse Steak House, 1580 Brookhollow Drive, Santa Ana.


Take the Costa Mesa Freeway to the Dyer Road exit. From the north, go right on Grand Avenue, then take first right onto Brookhollow Drive; from the south, go left under the overpass, right on Grand and right on Brookhollow.



Where to call

(714) 549-1512.

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