The late Tammy Wynette -- one of the most successful artists in country music history -- is the subject of a battle currently being waged between her family members. In April, three of Wynette's daughters sued the late country singer's widower and doctor for up to $50 million, claiming wrongful death, medical malpractice and negligence in Wynette's April 1998 death from a blood clot.
Her daughters maintain that narcotics administered by Wynette's doctor to treat her gastrointestinal disorder contributed to the fatal blood clot. The daughters also blame Wynette's husband, George Richey, for failing to take her to the hospital the day before she died.
Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh 57 years ago today in Red Bay, Ala. She was raised by her grandparents on a farm and worked in cotton fields to earn money for music lessons. She married for the first time at 17 and had three children, one of whom suffered from spinal meningitis.
After divorcing her husband three years later, Wynette took a hairdressing job to support her children. But she dreamed of a music career and eventually sang backup on country singer Porter Wagoner's TV show. She then met producer Billy Sherrill, who handled her first single, 1966's Johnny Paycheck-written "Apartment #9," which went to #44 on the country chart.
The following year, she got all the way to #3 with "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad."
Wynette topped the country chart with "My Elusive Dreams" (with David Houston) and "I Don't Want to Play House." In 1968, she hit #1 twice more, with her signature tunes "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and "Stand By Your Man" (RealAudio excerpt). The latter was also a top-20 pop hit and became the biggest-selling single by a female singer in country music history.
She continued to sing about her troubled life, despite her 1968 marriage to country star George Jones, with whom she had three #1 country hits. The union of Wynette and Jones was stormy and ended in 1975.
By 1979, Wynette had amassed 29 country top-10 singles and 17 #1 hits. She also was in the news for her tumultuous personal life, which included two more brief marriages and an affair with Burt Reynolds. She was also the object of an attempted kidnapping by a man who was never caught.
In 1986 Wynette entered the Betty Ford Clinic for addiction to painkillers. She also battled back from numerous operations for various medical problems. In the '90s Wynette's profile was raised by her collaboration with the British rave act KLF on the hit "Justified and Ancient."
In addition, Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "I'm not sitting here like some little woman, standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," when defending her husband, 1992 Presidential candidate Bill Clinton, against infidelity accusations in the media. Hillary Clinton apologized to Wynette for the comment a few days after the remark.
In 1995 Wynette reteamed with Jones for One. Christmas With Tammy Wynette was issued three years later.
A few months after her death, WEA/Elektra issued Tammy Wynette ... Remembered, a tribute album featuring, among others, Brian Wilson, Wynonna, Melissa Etheridge and Elton John, who sang "Stand By Your Man."
Other birthdays: Johnnie Taylor, 61; Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), 51; Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen), 40; Steve Stevens, 39; and Blind Willie McTell, 1901-1959.