Barbara Mandrell – Country Music Legends
Since this Christmas Day marks country singer, actor and multi-instrumentalist Barbara Mandrell's 62nd birthday, we thought we'd take a moment to honor this trailblazer, who was pretty much the biggest female star in the industry in both the 1970s and '80s.
Mandrell's career has served as an important bridge for country music across the decades, linking many generations of fans and -- through her hit variety television show -- helping to expose a wide range of fellow artists to a wider audience.
She was revealed at a very young age to be a musical prodigy, and quickly earned gigs playing steel guitar behind old-school stars like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. In 1970, she began a steadily building solo career that culminated with a barrage of late '70s No. 1 hits, including 'Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,' '(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to be Right' and 'One of a Kind Pair of Fools.'
In 1980, all this success led to a three-year job hosting the popular 'Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters' show, which blended comedy sketches with a diverse mix of musical guests and a show-ending gospel performance. Vocal chord issues brought on by this busy work schedule and a tragic 1984 car accident, which required years of recovery, forced her out of the spotlight for a time.
While she did make a strong recovery, Mandrell changed her priorities following the accident, focusing primarily on live performances and writing the 1990 autobiography 'Get to the Heart: My Story,' which was turned into a television movie in 1997. That same year, Mandrell announced her self-imposed retirement from live performances, which was commemorated with a televised final concert, 'The Last Dance.'
She has since focused on her acting career, occasionally turning up on award shows or as the subject of tribute albums, such as 2006's 'She Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool,' which featured her songs covered by the likes of Kenny Chesney, LeAnn Rimes and Brad Paisley.
That record, of course, was named after one of Barbara's most popular and iconic singles, 'I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool.' The song finds Mandrell reminiscing about wearing straight leg Levis and flannel shirts while everyone around her was disco-ing it up in polyester -- the perfect summation of a woman who pretty much since birth has embodied country music from her head all the way down to her boots.
Watch Barbara Mandrell 'I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool' Performance