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 with the ability to hold on to her audience for decades to come instead of ridin' away into no man's land.
America loves its child stars. This pint-sized country singer with the adorable "Teddy Bear Song" and the Donna Fargo cover "The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" in her repertoire was a can't-miss attraction. She made appearances on TV shows, radio stations and signed with Columbia Records.
But Tucker was more than a novelty act as a child, as she could sing of heartbreak and lovesick blues with the power and conviction of a grown woman. Changing country music trends and tabloid gossip limited her popularity for a time. Still, that same mighty voice eventually proved to be timeless as country fans sought more traditional-sounding stars in the late '80s. She showed that timeless sounds don't go out of style. This shift in Nashville's musical climate made a Texas girl the toast of Tennessee.
Tucker's latest album While I'm Livin' has rightfully earned the country singer-songwriter praise among critics and longtime fans. The album, produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, is nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Album at the 2020 Grammy awards.
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. It will always be hard to narrow down a career like Tucker's, but 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 through 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 music 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 loud, 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. My heart can barely handle the way Tucker sings these lyrics.
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.
Honorable mentions: "Strong Enough to Bend," "If Your Heart Ain't Busy Tonight," "Here's Some Love," "Can I See You Tonight," "Tell Me About It," "Down to My Last Teardrop," "I'll Come Back As Another Woman," "Love Me Like You Used To," "If It Don't Come Easy," "One Love At a Time," "While I'm Livin'," "Bring My Flowers Now," "Love's the Answer," and "The House That Built Me."