No. 12: Barbara Mandrell – Country’s Most Powerful Women of All Time
Barbara Mandrell was the first performer ever to win the CMA Entertainer of the Year award twice, and her massive success across genres and mediums makes her an obvious choice for the list of the most powerful women in country music.
Mandrell began her career as a child prodigy, learning to play pedal steel, lap steel, accordion, saxophone, banjo and many other instruments. She did a tour with Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and George Jones at the age of 13 and toured with her sisters Louise and Irlene in the Mandrell Family Band through her teens.
Mandrell signed a solo county deal with Columbia in 1969 and scored hits there with “Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home” and “The Midnight Oil,” but it wasn’t until she moved to ABC/Dot in 1975 that she really found her niche in country music. She scored her first Top 5 that year with “Standing Room Only” and rapidly followed up with a string of now-classic songs including “Married, But Not to Each Other” and “Woman to Woman” that carried her through the rest of the ’70s.
The singer and multi-instrumentalist hit No. 1 with “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right),” “Years,” “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” “‘Till You’re Gone” and “One of a Kind Pair of Fools,” continuing a hot streak all the way through 1988, when she scored her last Top 5 hit with “I Wish That I Could Fall in Love Today.”
Mandrell has won virtually every award possible for a musical performer, including CMAs, ACMs, a Grammy, American Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards and more. She made a large number of talk show and episodic television appearances and hosted a variety show with her sisters, and also wrote a best-selling memoir. In 1984 a devastating car accident interrupted her career, and her popularity never fully recovered.
Barbara Mandrell retired in 1997 and walked away, rarely being heard from since. If she hadn’t been absent from country music for the last two decades, Mandrell might have ranked even higher on the list of the most powerful country women of all time.
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