April 6, 1998 was a sad day in country music. On that day, Tammy Wynette, who had become known as the “First Lady of Country Music” passed away in her home at the age of 55.
After a legendary career that produced hit songs such as “Stand by Your Man” and “Golden Ring,” the last years of Wynette’s life were plagued with medical problems. She was constantly in and out of the hospital, and ended up undergoing 15 major surgeries in a short amount of time.
Despite her poor health, Wynette remained dedicated to performing up until the day she died, and she even had several shows lined up for the future. But she passed away before she ever got the chance to perform at those shows. It was eventually determined by a coroner that Wynette’s death was the result of a cardiac arrhythmia.
The entire country music community went into mourning following Wynette’s death. A large memorial service was held for her at the iconic Ryman Auditorium, and many of country’s biggest stars attended to pay their respects.
In the months and years since Wynette’s death, countless country artists have stepped forward to pay tribute to her. We’ve gathered together some of the most emotional tributes for you to watch in this list.
Wynette’s Widower Brought To Tears By Mindy McCready’s Tribute
Wynette and her husband George Richey had been married for 20 years when she passed away. Richey wrote several songs for her before they were married, including her hits “‘Til I Can Make It On My Own” and “You and Me.”
Richey was in the audience during a televised special dedicated to Wynette. Still relatively new on the country music scene at the time, a young Mindy McCready was given the chance to honor Wynette with her signature song, “Stand by Your Man.” Before she started singing, McCready spoke beautifully of Wynette’s talent.
“Tammy could create pictures in your mind and touch your soul as she sang about a broken relationship on her loyalty to her man,” she said.
McCready’s performance was just as beautiful as the words she spoke about Wynette beforehand. When the camera cut to show Richey, you could tell that he was visibly emotional and obviously touched by McCready’s tribute.
Sadly, country music lost another one of its shining stars when McCready passed away on February 17, 2013.
Merle Haggard Sings “If I Could Only Fly” At Memorial Service
Merle Haggard wasn’t able to attend Wynette’s memorial service in Nashville, but he still wanted to perform a song in honor of his dear friend. He filmed himself singing one of his more emotional songs, titled “If I Could Only Fly,” and sent the tape to Wynette’s family to play at the memorial.
Haggard sat down with his guitar and performed an acoustic version of the song, which gave his message a sincere, personal touch. He kept his eyes closed during most of the performance, feeling the emotion in the moment.
You could hear the sadness in Haggard’s voice as he sang in mourning. His voice nearly broke on a few occasions, but he always regained composure.
As fate would have it, Haggard passed away on April 6 as well, 18 years after Wynette.
Sara Evans Delivers Emotional Tribute With “Stand By Your Man”
During the ACM Presents Girls Night Out: Superstar Women Of Country special in 2011, the talented Sara Evans decided to pay tribute to another powerful female country artist…Wynette. She sang “Stand by Your Man,” and brought the entire crowd to its feet with her passionate performance.
Anyone who has listened to “Stand by Your Man” knows that it isn’t an easy song to sing. But Evans pulled it off without a hitch. You’re sure to get chills when she hits that final high note at the end!
Dolly Parton Writes A Special Song For The Memorial
So when Wynette passed away, Parton was understandably heartbroken. She chose to express her feelings in the best way she knew how…through song. Parton ended up writing a brand new song in Wynette’s honor, which she then performed for the first time at her memorial service.
The song, called “Shine On,” is about Wynette’s talent as a singer. Parton introduced the song at the memorial, saying “God certainly gave Tammy a great gift. She shined then, she’s shining now, and she’ll shine forevermore.”
Parton sang “Shine On” along with a small group of background vocalists, who harmonized with her perfectly. Above all else, Parton’s love for her dear friend came through crystal clear in this touching tribute performance.
The Talented Women Of Country Music Cover “Stand by Your Man”
As the “First Lady of Country Music,” Wynette was one of the main trailblazers for female artists in the genre. During the CMA Awards, five of country music’s greatest female vocalists came together for a powerful performance in tribute to her.
Martina McBride, Patty Loveless, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, and once again, Dolly Parton, performed Wynette’s signature song “Stand by Your Man.” Each artist took their turn singing a part of the song, before all five of them finally came together in a breathtaking showcase of talent.
Although the ladies’ performance was a bit more upbeat than some of the other tributes to Wynette, the most emotional part came at the end of the song.
When a large picture of Wynette appeared behind the stage, all of the other artists stopped singing except for Parton, who sang “Tammy, we will always love you.” We’ve seen this performance many times, but Parton always manages to move us to tears with the way she sings that single line.
Wynette is still dearly missed by the country music community. She may be gone, but she will never be forgotten.