Congrats to the one-and-only Tanya Tucker on her twin #GRAMMY awards for Country Album Of The Year and Country Song Of The Year!
A special shout out also to Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings Official for the amazing production work + blood, sweat and tears they put into “While I’m Livin.’”
I grew up with Tanya. She’s just a few years older than I am, so through a collection of 8 tracks, country radio tuned into our kitchen from sunup to sunset, I was ear-fed a variety of the greatest (and some of the worst) country acts in North America. Tanya was special, though.
That voice which back then sounded more like a billy goat (Tanya described her voice in this term during an episode of “Tuckerville”) that had swallowed a “sand” wich, she cut through that tin can speaker of a radio in much the way Buck Owens did with his electric guitars on his 1960’s Capitol releases. And that voice grew up with me. It also matured, beautifully.
Tanya was never a girl to follow anyone’s rules. Now, being that I’m seven years her junior, I never knew about Rolling Stone magazine featuring her, or the change from Columbia to MCA…etc. All I knew is the girl kept on delivering consistently good product. Yes, the world knows well the scandal she made when her almost too young self decided to go Lolita on y’all and released “TNT”. Yes, we owned the album, like most of her other work to that time, and yes, it was a departure from her usual fare, and yes, it was played until there was literally nothing left of it (I recently aquired a playable copy from Ebay for way too much money).
Her albums got a little weak in the knees after “Tear Me Apart”, though in terms of sales and radio play, but I kept on buying and listening. It wasn’t until “Girls Like Me” that I got a good dose of what made this lady great…intense drama dripping from every syllable she emoted. From “Girls Like Me” to “I’ll Come Back As Another Woman”, she proclaimed her place back on radio, and made me smile. Girl was looking good, and sounding even better. When I watched the CMA’s the year she was not present (giving herself the ultimate award with a new life cradled in her arms) and they read out “And the winner is”…I think I yelled so damned loud the entire block heard me. She FINALLY got the respect she earned from her peers.
Well, fast forward to 2019, and the girl’s on a new label with what has to be the deepest collection of words and music I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of bearing audible witness to. I saw all the interviews (thank God for YouTube, I live in Canada, we don’t get to see most of the programs she visited) and then reading, and it seems like day after day, the praise all the major music publications heaped upon this artwork…man, you know I got myself REALLY hopped up about what was happening to the Texas Tornado. Her voice has most definitely shown the wear and tear that comes from smoking too many cigarettes and sampling a few too many shots of tequila over the years, but her heart was as raw and bare on each track as she had always dared to be.
Tanya once said during her reality show that the one part of her career she wished she could have not gone through was her TNT era. I could well understand why; with her not being ready to be that sexy, Glen, the drugs and having her father move her out of L.A…broke and in shambles. Yet, it was on both of her southern rock albums where she truly came into her own. Everything inside of her poured out in the stark and painful ballad “I’ve Never Said No Before” gave her a raw depth that she hadn’t truly touched on up to that point, and until “Girls Like Me” came along.
Tanya…without the pain, the art suffers. That’s truly evident on her cover of “The House That Built Me”. Everything that made me literally bawl when she touched my soul with that “I’ve Never Said” came flooding back the first time I heard it. It took me an hour to stop slinging snot, it hit me that hard. You could feel the pain, deep regret and hope she conveyed in the lyrics, and it completely took me on a journey that had me reflecting on a few of my own missteps and regrets while listening.
“Bring My Flowers Now”. Well, what to say about this song. I lost an entire generation of my family over the course of five years. Like Tanya, I thought more love was behind me. The loss of my mother gutted me, and discovering that she didn’t like cut flowers after she died in a journal she left was a huge surprise to my sister and I. She wanted her flowers living…and like this song says, while she was living. OK, so I’m near suicidal listening to this track for the first time, for obvious reasons. I cried so damned hard (and I’m not the wussy man type) that I spent the better part of a night trying to re-hydrate myself enough to stop the damned migraine I triggered. In short; it destroyed me.
Well, after Billboard, and all the trades lauded this musical marvel, the Grammy nominations. GOD, did I want her to win “Song Of The Year” I mean..she REALLY earned the stroll up to that podium for this. But deep down, I knew in my heart of hearts it likely wasn’t going to go her way. Still, I hoped and crossed the proverbial digits for her in support of her Country music nods. And damn, if she didn’t show them all how its done by taking home the two big awards for her category.
She still tells it the way she sees it. She still has a heart full of gratitude, and she still can move me to tears…forty some odd years after I heard “What’s Your Mama’s Name” and “Blood Red and Going Down”.
Tanya…I am relatively certain you will never read this, and that’s OK. It wasn’t written here for that purpose. It’s written here for one purpose…to thank you for being my musical friend/crutch/muse/celebration and so many more things that you’ve meant to me. I REALLY am as proud as s…t for you, and am so damned glad you are finally getting the recognition you so richly deserve. And…one more tiny little comment. In “Flowers”, you sang the phrase “They’ll bury me and Jessie Mae, I just know we’re gonna ride again someday”. The reverence and almost choked up emotion you delivered in that single line told me more about who you are as a person than anything you’ve ever sang before or since.
From a grateful and proud fan…thank you for the music, the “good” drama, and for being yourself. I hope there’s still enough bad girl in you to not give a flying fig if you happened to moon a few people while upsetting the powers that be at the time. Takes guts to be a rebel, and from where I sit, you’re the queen of the outlaws.
Congrats, the gold looks good in your hands.