The Grand Ole Opry lost its oldest member and one of classic country music's greatest ambassadors when Jan Howard, age 91, passed away on March 28.
Despite singing on just one Billboard chart-topper (the Bill Anderson duet "For Loving You"), the former Lula Grace Johnson of West Plains, Missouri built and maintained quite the reputation in Nashville as a singer and songwriter, as represented by the following five songs.
This short list skips some great singles, such as Howard's duets with Bakersfield Sound pioneer Wynn Stewart. We also sidestep Howard-penned Kitty Wells singles "Mommy For a Day" and "It's All Over But the Crying" and the Howard and Anderson co-write that became a Connie Smith hit, "I Never Once Stopped Loving You." So, consider this an entry point to a catalog that also includes appearances on some of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash's gospel recordings and a 1983 version of "Tainted Love."
"For Loving You" (Bill Anderson)
Howard's greatest success on the country chart came when Decca Records paired her with another beloved Grand Ole Opry member in "Whisperin'" Bill Anderson. This No. 1 from 1967 was followed by top 5 duet singles "If It's All the Same to You" (1969), "Someday We'll Be Together" (1970) and "Dis-Satisfied" (1971). Anderson also scored a top 5 solo hit in 1970 with Howard composition "Love is a Sometimes Thing"
"The One You Slip Around With"
?Howard was married to the great songwriter Harlan Howard from 1957 to 1968. Two great writers and interpreters of country songs elevated each other professionally when Jan turned in an iconic version of this Harlan-pinned classic.
One of Howard's most powerful singles began as a letter to her son Jimmy as he served his country overseas. It has become a well-known country song about the Vietnam War in part because Ken Burns addressed it in his 2019 docu-series Country Music.
"Evil on Your Mind"
This Grammy-nominated hit proves that like the other iconic female country singers of the '60's, Howard struck that fine balance between helpless heartache and righteous anger. Howard was so great at tackling emotional material that she was chosen to record the demo of "I Fall to Pieces," a co-write between her husband and Hank Cochran that became a key part of the Patsy Cline legend.
Cowboys aren't the only drifters in country songs, as Howard reminds us with this Anderson-penned classic about a woman too reckless and restless to settle down in a small Tennessee town. The 1966 album it's from features songs penned by Bobby Bare ("That's Not My Problem Anymore") and Dallas Frazier ("Ain't Had No Lovin'").
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