Reba McEntire Almost Quit Making Music — Here’s Why

Reba McEntire; Photo by Donn Jones/CMA
Reba McEntire; Photo by Donn Jones/CMA
Reba McEntire; Photo by Donn Jones/CMA

Reba McEntire’s Remixed Revised Revisited box set is a three-disc testament to her storied career, not only looking back at her extensive collection of hits, but also reexamining those songs in a fresh light that proves she’s got plenty of inspiration left for the future. But in March of 2020, McEntire reveals, she almost walked away from music altogether.

The singer’s mother, Jacqueline, died on March 14 at the age of 93, following a bout with cancer. Without her mom, McEntire says, she initially didn’t see the point of continuing her musical career. After all, it was Jacqueline who gave McEntire her earliest experiences with music and who first pushed her to pursue her vocal talents.

Reba McEntire and her Mother, Jacqueline; Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night
Reba McEntire and her Mother, Jacqueline; Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night

“When we were growing up, Mama was the reason we started singing,” she recounts. In those early years, McEntire performed as a family band with her sister Susie and her brother Pake. In doing so, they were living out a dream their mom once had for herself.

“She wanted to be a singer, and she was gonna go out to California when she graduated from high school and become a duet with her friend. Grandpa Smith wouldn’t allow her to do that. He needed the help at home; they were sharecroppers,” McEntire continues. “So when Mama and I were going to Nashville to cut demonstration tapes with Red Steagall in 1975, I was prolonging the trip — detouring, and ‘Let’s stop for ice cream,’ or ‘Let’s do something…’

“She said, ‘Look, Reba, if you don’t wanna do this, let’s just turn around and go home,’” the singer remembers her mom telling her. “‘But if you decide to go on to Nashville and pursue this career, I’ll be living my life and my dreams through you.’ I said, ‘Well, shoot. Why didn’t you say that in the beginning? Get in the car and let’s go.’”

Reba McEntire And Her Mom Jacqueline; Photo Courtesy of YouTube
Reba McEntire And Her Mom Jacqueline; Photo Courtesy of YouTube

As she rose through the ranks, McEntire never forgot the bond she’d forged with her mom over music. Most recently, on her 2019 album Stronger Than the Truth, the singer include a song called “You Never Gave Up on Me” that paid tribute to Jacqueline.

“So when Mama passed, I thought, ‘Where’s my buddy? Where’s my ‘want-to’? She’s not with me anymore,’” she remembers. She even told her sister, Susie, that she was thinking about quitting the music business.

“Susie said, ‘I think it’ll come back.’ We were cleaning out Mama’s house, Mama and Daddy’s house, and I’d sit and go through her things,” McEntire goes on to say. “About a couple months later, I called Susie and said, ‘I think I got my ‘want-to’ back.’ And she said, ‘I knew God would let you have it when you were ready. He’s not finished with you yet.’”

So much so that, with the release of the box set now behind her, McEntire’s already gearing up to jump into the next chapter. Among other things, that means working on brand new music.

“I have written and co-written — because that’s the one thing everybody’s gotten to do a lot of [during shutdowns], is Zoom write,” the singer points out. “We’ve had a lot of time to think and sit around and ponder on different situations. Yeah. I’ve probably co-wrote and wrote more than I have in the last 10 years.”

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