There’s no question that “Stand By Your Man” is Tammy Wynette’s signature song.
On this date in 1968, she was topping the U.S. Country singles chart with the iconic song she co-wrote with producer Billy Sherrill.
It subsequently became the lead single and title track of her album, and it might just be one of the most recognizable (and controversial) country songs of all time.
Ironically, was written right in the middle of her infamously tumultuous marriage to George Jones.
At the time, she had already been through two prior divorces from other marriages, which is part of the reason people took issue with the song when it came out.
Though Tammy never intended for it to become a women’s rights anthem or some sort of big social statement, record labels are record labels, and Epic promoted the new single with this line in a huge Billboard ad:
“TAMMY WYNETTE’S ANSWER TO WOMEN’S LIB: ‘STAND BY YOUR MAN,’ NEW RELEASE.”
Of course, that rubbed a lot of women the wrong way, especially knowing that her marriage was far from perfect and she hadn’t really stood by her other husbands prior to George. I mean, I get that to a certain extent, but can’t we just let a good song be a good song sometimes?
Some things never change, I guess…
Tammy and Billy wrote the song very quickly after a long day trying to crank out multiple new tracks. Billy had come into the write with a title “I’ll Stand By You,” but Tammy wanted to dig a little deeper and find a bit of an edge for the concept.
They even ended up recording it that same day, too.
After the first take, Billy told NPR that Tammy sarcastically joked she hoped it would never become a huge hit, saying:
“God, if this is a hit, I’m going to have to hit that God-awful high note the rest of my life.”
Tammy also mentioned that she wasn’t as confident in her writing at that time, and after she went home and played her new song for George, it made her even more nervous to release it:
“I went home and played it for George, and he didn’t like it. He didn’t know I’d written it. That kinda got me started off wrong.”
On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in 1993, she explained a little bit more about the true meaning of the iconic tune:
“Some of the woman object to, I think, the part where it said ‘If you love him, you’ll forgive him. After all, he’s just a man.’ They said that was the old double standard.
Gosh, I didn’t have anything like that in mind at all when I wrote it. Because I have five girls, and by no means would ever write anything that would belittle any of my girls.
But I thought it was just a pretty love song, and that’s all I intended when I wrote it, you know. And I’d like for a man to say, you know, ‘stand by your woman,’ I love that feeling.”
She also previously stated that she wrote the song in just 15 minutes, and spent a lifetime defending it, always insisting that she had no political motive, adding that it was “just a pretty love song.”
Check it out, it’s pretty interesting to hear her take on what the song was intended to meant and be:
Personally, I love it, and I think she’s an absolute genius for penning such a timeless track.
A lot of the talent when it comes to songwriting is just being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and tell their story with authenticity in a believable way and have it resonate across the board…
53 years later, I think it’s safe to say she certainly did that.
Here she is singing it on the Johnny Cash Show back in the day: