Tanya Tucker songs have captured the attention of country music fans since the veteran singer took “Delta Dawn” to the top of the country music charts at age 13. Despite a sometimes turbulent and controversial life as a young woman, Tucker avoided the usual trappings of child stardom, maintaining her audience for decades to come.
America loves its child stars, making a pint-sized country singer with the adorable “Teddy Bear Song” and previous Helen Reddy hit “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” in her repertoire a can’t-miss attraction for tv shows, radio station programmers and Columbia Records.
But Tucker was more than a novelty act as a child, as she could sing of lovesick blues with the power and conviction of a grown woman. Changing country music trends and tabloid gossip limited her popularity for a time, but that same mighty voice eventually proved to be timeless as country fans sought more traditional-sounding stars in the late ’80s. This shift in Nashville’s musical climate made a Texas girl the toast of Tennessee, as Tucker’s Capitol Records comeback gained her even more notoriety.
With decades of experience comes a back catalog of potential “greatest hits” candidates. As often happens with these lists, what’s the best and where it ranks among other great songs is a matter of opinion. That said, these 10 cuts define a legendary and ongoing career driven by a true rebel’s instantly recognizable singing voice.
10. “Little Things”
While young Tucker captured fans’ hearts with a weathered voice that sounded mature beyond its years, there’s something equally admirable about Tucker as a contemporary artist who’s lived though enough to make nearly any song of love, loss or longing believable.
9. “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)”
At risk of leaving out other deserving songs (“Highway Robbery,” “Pecos Promenade”), it’d be a bigger shame to skip the signature version of an often-covered country song.
8. “Lizzie and the Rainman”
This mid-’70s song, in the mold of movies’ folk and country-inspired title tracks, became Tucker’s most successful pop crossover hit, despite the accessible sound of her career comeback.
7. “Blood Red and Goin’ Down”
Classic ’70s album What’s Your Mama’s Name helps define Tucker’s early career. On this number-one single, she tells a believable story of family drama and murder through the eyes of an adolescent.
6. “My Arms Stay Open All Night”
Tucker’s mighty voice suited whatever song tempo or production techniques suited the time. Her talent as a song interpreter shined as bright when country went pop in the ’90s as it did when she was a teenage sensation.
5. “It’s a Little Too Late”
When rock and classic country-inspired songs lit up the charts, few caught as many ears as this raucous, sassy and pop-accessible hit from 1992.
4. “San Antonio Stroll”
There’s nothing quite like about Texas, as sung by proud Texans. Tucker must feel right at home at the local honky tonk, from Billy Bob’s on down, based her take on such dives’ nightly musical offerings.
3. “Texas (When I Die)”
Tucker’s rocking TNT album included this honky tonk tribute to her home state. It’s one of many great songs that likens beautiful, bountiful Texas to the sweet by-and-by.
2. “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane”
Tucker left a mark on a new era of sentimental country hits with this tale of a couple with a shared love strong enough to overcome the odds.
1. “Delta Dawn”
Sometimes, nothing can quite match the impact of a star’s breakthrough hit. Teenage Tucker’s jaw-dropping cover of a song she learned from the great Bette Midler remains a groundbreaking moment in country music history.