Tammy Wynette, known as the “First Lady of Country Music,” was credited for her substantial career as one of the best-selling female artists leading into the 1970s.
With twenty No. 1 songs skyrocketing to the pinnacle of the Billboard Country Charts, she – along with fellow female icons such as Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn – played a very influential role for women in country music today.
“Stand By Your Man” proved to be one of the singer/songwriter’s biggest songs and granted her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Throughout her career, she went on to sell more than 30 million records, grossing more than $100 million, according to her official website. She was also the first female country artist to sell more than one million albums.
Wynette sang about things the average person could relate to such as divorce, parenting, loneliness.
In 1968, Wynette’s idol, country music legend George Jones, professed his love for her, and the pair got married early the following year. They were together for six years before getting divorced in 1975.
About twenty years later, on April 6th, 1998, Wynette was found deceased in her Nashville home at the age of 55. George Richey, her fifth husband – whom her daughters stated was abusive to their late mother – requested an autopsy report as Tammy’s three daughters filed a $55 million wrongful death lawsuit against him. While he denies all accusations, her daughters believe it is possible he could have played a role in her death.
Having at least 26 surgeries throughout the span of her life, Wynette faced some major health issues but did not let that stop her from performing. Her personal physician, Dr. Wallis Marsh, flew from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, where he declared the cause of her death as a blood clot to the lungs. Her daughters believe that narcotics provided by Marsh and administered by Richey possibly lead to her death.
Dr. Bruce Levy, Metro medical examiner, investigated Wynette’s statements and found no evidence that her death was caused by a blood clot. Two drugs, a sedative Versed and anti-nausea Phenergan, were found in her system, but there is no guarantee that is what lead to her final moments. In 1999, it was confirmed that she died of heart failure, potentially brought on by complications from a chronic blood clotting condition.
According to CMT, Dr. Levy stated, “If I were asked to testify in court whether I’d classify this as a natural death – yes, I would. I’m very satisfied, based upon the autopsy, that we have as good a picture as we ever are going to have about what medically caused her death.”
Fans and members of the country music community gathered together three days after her death to honor her with a memorial service at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium.