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Tanya Tucker on her new album My Turn

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Published on Jun 26, 2009

Shes been called one of the finest song stylists in any genre, a singer who owns the patent on any song she sings. Tanya Tuckers inimitable vocal stylings and soulful performances have resulted in a string of hit albums and singles, garnered hundreds of honors and awards and made her a country music legend. On June 30th, Tanya releases her newest album, My Turn, a collection of songs done up like no one else could ever do. She takes on classic country hits originally recorded by men and turns them on their heads, transforming some of the most melancholy songs ever written into anthems of girl power and austere strength.

The Texas Tornado was born on October 10, 1958 in Seminole, Texas, located on the Panhandle Plains that locals call the land of tumbleweeds, pump-jacks, windmills and four open horizons. It was the perfect place for a tornado to show up.




Tanya was a precocious child. She cut her first tooth at 5 months, was driving the family Volkswagen around the yard by age 4 and riding horses before she turned 5. One day I just started singing, she says. And by the time she was 8, she was copying everything she heard on the country radio: Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves and Hawkshaw Hawkins.

Tanyas father, Beau Tucker, worked any job he could find to keep the family going. He was at various times a pilot, a prospector and a heavy equipment operator. The Tuckers were living in Wilcox, Arizona when Tanya started singing at talent contests and appearing on the stage with visiting celebrities like Mel Tillis and Ernest Tubb. Then, while Beau was working on a pipeline in St. George, Utah, Tanya landed a part in Robert Redfords film Jeremiah Johnson. It didnt turn out to be a show business break, but it helped convince Beau Tucker that stardom was possible, even if you had no industry contacts.

The family later moved to Las Vegas to be closer to an entertainment center. It was there that patrons of the local Veterans club started calling Tanya Little Miss Cheatin Heart because of her years-ahead-of-her-time vocal delivery. The Tuckers traveled to Nashville only to be met by closed doors and come back when shes older comments.

But it was only a matter of time. Tanya was 13 when a Las Vegas songwriter introduced her to legendary record producer Billy Sherill. He soon signed her to Columbia Records and recorded the first big hit song: Delta Dawn. Tanya followed that with Loves The Answer and Jamestown Ferry, and then came out of the chute with another megahit: Whats Your Mamas Name? She was 15 years old, with a Country Music Association and Grammy nomination, a Greatest Hits package in the works and her face on the cover of the Rolling Stone.

In 1972, renowned music critic Nat Hentoff wrote in Cosmopolitan magazine: Tanyas voice is vibrato full and tangy, with the kind of restless intensity that stays in your mind long after the song is done. This teenager has become one of the most dramatic presences in all of music, not just country. She also became a role model for female artists, a singer many industry insiders see as a future Hall of Famer: When you listen to Tanya Tucker you hear spirit and independence. Thats what shes given to country music, said music critic John Lomax III.

That public image and those hits caused MCA Records to offer Tanya what was then the most lucrative recording contract ever awarded in country music, 1.5 million dollars. The hits kept on coming: Lizzie and the Rainman, San Antonio Stroll, Dont Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You, Texas When I Die and Pecos Promenade, to name but a few during her MCA years.

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