I Still Believe In Fairy Tales/’Til I Can Make It On My Own
In terms of her private life, 1975 was not a good year for Tammy Wynette. Though she had proclaimed that she would stand by her man, the destructive behavior of husband and duet partner George Jones had reached an apex. She had stood by her man until she could stand no more, and filed for d-i-v-o-r-c-e, a sad ending to a Nashville romance story that almost seemed doomed from the start, with Wynette’s life sadly once again becoming indistinguishable from the songs that she sang. I Still Believe In Fairy Tales, released that year, would already be emotionally heavy-handed, but when placed in the context of her divorce, the result is absolutely overwhelming.
That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, though. Wynette was incapable of releasing a bad record, and if the song selection was her outlet for her emotions, well, who could blame her? With heartbreak on her mind and the ink on her settlement papers not yet dry, she handled this personal loss with grace and style. Sure, the title track may make you wince, but other songs found here are none-too-subtle, such as “Brown Paper Bag” (a song about escape into alcohol and fantasy) and “The Bottle” dealing direct with the alcoholism-as-marriage-killer subject. Though “I Just Had You On My Mind” feels like an answer song to “She Thinks I Still Care,” it’s still quite lovely and touching. Reach for your handkerchief, though, for album closer “Your Memory’s Gone To Rest.” You can probably figure out the subject matter from the title; it caps off the tears with a hopeful note, that in spite of the sad times, she is moving on.
’Til I Can Make It On My Own appeared in 1976, and though less than six months had passed, it was clear that Wynette was indeed ready to move on. The title track was one she wrote, and would prove to be a number one hit—and Wynette would declare it to be one of her favorite songs—not just in 1976, but again in 1979 when singing duo Kenny Rogers and Dottie West released a version of it. Its teary-eyed optimism is refreshing, especially in the context of this twofer; it’s the recognition of life moving on that was sorely missing from her previous album. She’s still hurting, and she’s still singing hurting songs, but it’s clear that with “The Heart” and “Where Some Good Love Has Been,” she’s not completely over Jones, even if she could not stand to be married to him.
In between these two albums, she and Jones recorded one of the most powerful songs about marriage and divorce, “Golden Ring.” It too was a hit, and it showed that even though they had split, they still had things to say as a recording duo. They would work together steadily through the rest of the decade, and then sporadically all the way until her death in 1998. George Jones was always going to be a hard man to get over, and she would continue to stand by her (ex)-man until her dying day. These two albums document the period of loss and personal growth, and feature Wynette at her best. But be warned—the listening ahead can be hard to bear.
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