The 1980s were all about Reaganomics, the Cold War, MTV, big hair, Farm Aid, flashy fashion... and some great country music! Read on to see some of the biggest country stars of the 1980s and what they look like today. Some '80s legends such as Kenny Rogers and Naomi Judd are sadly no longer with us, but here are a few notable ones who are.
According to the RIAA, Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist in the United States with 138 million units sold. That's ahead of Elvis Presley and is second only to the Beatles in total albums overall. Brooks released his first album, Garth Brooks, in 1989. In 2021, Brooks performed "Amazing Grace" at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Brooks' most recent album is 2020's Fun. He is pictured here at the class of 2021 Medallion Ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Hank Williams Jr.
Between 1979 and 1992, country legend Hank Williams Jr. released 18 studio albums, all of which were at least certified gold. His 1989 hit "There's a Tear in My Beer" was a duet with his deceased father created using electronic merging technology. He is pictured above in 2020 admiring his plaque at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. His new album, Rich White Honky Blues, has a release date of June 17, 2022.
George Strait is known as "The King of Country" and is notable for trying to take country music back to its roots in the 1980s. Notable hits include "Write This Down," "She'll Leave You with a Smile" and "I Hate Everything." Strait released his 30th studio album, Honky Tonk Time Machine, in 2019.
In 1984, McEntire released her eighth studio album, My Kind of Country. The album, which includes the number-one country hits "Somebody Should Leave" and "How Blue," proved to be the breakthrough McEntire had been waiting for her entire life. The Country Music Association named McEntire 1984's Female Vocalist of the Year. On her 1986 album Whoever's in New England, McEntire started incorporating more contemporary sounds into the traditional country music she had been making up to that point. The title track earned McEntire the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She is pictured above in 2022 at the 94th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Dwight Yoakam's career caught fire in 1986 with the release of the Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. album. The hit single "Honky Tonk Man" became the first country music video to be played on MTV. His follow-up album, 1987's Hillbilly Deluxe, also topped the charts and generated hit singles such as "Little Sister" and "Little Ways." The Grammy winner is pictured above performing with Carrie Underwood in Nashville in 2021. That same year, Yoakam appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie Cry Macho.
Wynonna Judd and her mother Naomi Judd comprised the Judds, a duo who released five hit albums in the 1980s that changed country music forever. The Judds won five Grammys and nine Country Music Association awards during their run. After the Judds' 1990 album Love Can Build a Bridge, Wynonna embarked on a solo career but occasionally reunited with her mother for events and performances. Tragically, Naomi, who had battled depression, took her own life one day before the Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Wynonna is pictured above on May 1, 2022, accepting the honor for both of them.
Enjoy Country Music?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.