By: Annie Zaleski
January 14, 2023

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of favorite Country singles from the Sixties (1964–1973). Series edited by Josh Glenn. BONUS: Check out the DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist on Spotify.


TAMMY WYNETTE | “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” | 1968

Tammy Wynette knows a little something about living and loving through pain. To compensate, she often handles this ache with a subtle emotional knife twist. Just ask the titular character of “Stand By Your Man,” whose indiscretions are dismissed because he’s “just a man,” as if he can’t be expected to act any better.

A No. 1 country hit in 1968 that earned Wynette a Grammy nomination, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” drips with sorrow tinged with passive-aggression. As the title implies, the song is about an impending divorce that’s complicated by child custody. However, the four-year-old at the heart of the song is a bargaining chip who doesn’t realize his parents are splitting; in fact, he thinks “C-U-S-T-O-D-Y” is fun.

The post-marriage reality is anything but happy. Singing to her soon-to-be-ex, Wynette admits she’s not thrilled about the split (“I love you both and this will be pure H-E double L for me / Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E”). Her voice trembles with sadness and resignation, matching the lonesome pedal steel and swaying, twangy guitars.

“D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was actually co-written by a pair of men: Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman. The latter was no stranger to capturing the female perspective — he wrote Dolly Parton’s first charting single, “Dumb Blonde” — and here the pain felt by a soon-to-be single mother is palpable. In fact, it’s striking that Wynette spells out the word “hell,” as if she herself can’t bear to stomach the aftermath of her marriage ending. She’s clearly carrying the weight of the split, both literally and figuratively.

A few lines later, Wynette all but says this is the case: “I spell out all the hurtin’ words and turn my head when I speak / ‘Cause I can’t spell away this hurt.” It’s unclear who initiated the divorce — the insinuation is it’s not her choice — but the pain is real just the same. Her Southern accent is even more pronounced, the way it might become more prominent when your emotions are running high.

It’s no wonder: Talking about the realities of a marriage ending, and couching it through the lens of child custody, positioned Wynette’s song as one of the more sobering and realistic breakup songs of the era. If your impulse is righteous anger, that has to come later, once you’ve put responsibility first and sorted out what’s going on with the kids. Even in divorce, women are bearing the brunt of the wrecked aftermath.


DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | David Cantwell on Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton’s WE FOUND IT | Lucy Sante on Johnny & June Carter Cash’s JACKSON | Mimi Lipson on George Jones’s WALK THROUGH THIS WORLD WITH ME | Steacy Easton on Olivia Newton-John’s LET ME BE THERE | Annie Zaleski on Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E | Carl Wilson on Tom T. Hall’s THAT’S HOW I GOT TO MEMPHIS | Josh Glenn on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s BACK TO TENNESSEE | Elizabeth Nelson on Skeeter Davis’s I DIDN’T CRY TODAY | Carlo Rotella on Buck Owens’ TOGETHER AGAIN | Lynn Peril on Roger Miller’s THE MOON IS HIGH | Erik Davis on Kris Kristofferson’s SUNDAY MORNIN’ COMIN’ DOWN | Francesca Royster on Linda Martell’s BAD CASE OF THE BLUES | Amanda Martinez on Bobbie Gentry’s FANCY | Erin Osmon on John Prine’s PARADISE | Douglas Wolk on The Byrds’ DRUG STORE TRUCK DRIVIN’ MAN | David Warner on Willie Nelson’s WHISKEY RIVER | Will Groff on Tanya Tucker’s DELTA DAWN | Natalie Weiner on Dolly Parton’s IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS (WHEN TIMES WERE BAD) | Charlie Mitchell on Stonewall Jackson’s I WASHED MY HANDS IN MUDDY WATER | Nadine Hubbs on Dolly Parton’s COAT OF MANY COLORS | Jada Watson on Loretta Lynn’s DON’T COME HOME A DRINKIN’ (WITH LOVIN’ ON YOUR MIND) | Adam McGovern on Johnny Cash’s THE MAN IN BLACK | Stephen Thomas Erlewine on Dick Curless’s A TOMBSTONE EVERY MILE | Alan Scherstuhl on Waylon Jennings’s GOOD HEARTED WOMAN | Alex Brook Lynn on Bobby Bare’s THE WINNER. PLUS: Peter Doyle on Jerry Reed’s GUITAR MAN | Brian Berger on Charley Pride’s IS ANYBODY GOING TO SAN ANTONE.




Country, Enthusiasms, Music