In the transient world of popular music, Reba McEntire has proven herself to be a survivor.
Her 2009 album, "Keep On Loving You," broke a tie with Loretta Lynn for the most country albums making their debut at No. 1. It was the 11th time McEntire had pulled off that feat -- not bad for someone who learned to sing in the backseat of a car.
That was on long road trips with her parents to and from rodeo events. Her father, Clark, was a national champion calf roper three times during the 1950s, following in the footsteps (or hoofprints) of his father. On those excursions, McEntire's mother taught her and siblings Pake and Susie to sing, and they harmonized the miles away.
Eventually, the McEntire kids formed the "singing McEntires" in their hometown of Kiowa, OK, and even cut an indie record. Nevertheless, Reba had planned on becoming a school teacher like her mother, and received an education degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. That all changed in 1976 when she was invited to sing the National Anthem at a rodeo in Oklahoma City. Her performance there impressed country singer Red Steagall, who happened to hear it, and he convinced McEntire to cut a demo tape and go to Nashville.
The same year, McEntire signed with Mercury records and recorded her first single, "I Don't Want To Be A One Night Stand." Unfortunately, the record turned out to be pretty much a one-night stand, peaking at No. 88. Her second single crawled up to No. 86 before dying out, the third topped out at 88. Her debut album didn't chart at all.
Undaunted, McEntire reached back into country music's past to cover Patsy Cline's iconic "Sweet Dreams,' which made it to No. 19. Her first Top 10 hit came in 1980, "You Lift Me Up (To Heaven)," and her career had turned the corner.
It didn't hurt that McEntire had the looks (red hair, blue eyes) and feisty on-stage personality to build on that belated success. But she resisted the burgeoning crossover movement in the mid-80s, sticking to traditional covers and a couple of old school originals for her studio album "Just A Little Love."
By 1985, McEntire was writing her own songs, starting with "Only In My mind" in 1985. She was made a member in the Grand 'Ol Opry in 1986 -- country music's equivalent to "made" status in the Mafia -- and thus gained another platform.
A year later, McEntire had her first Grammy for "Whoever's In New England." 1987 also brought her a divorce from rodeo cowboy and rancher Charlie Battles, two No. 1 singles and a "greatest Hits" album.
McEntire was visited by tragedy on March 16, 1991, when eight members of her road band died in a plane crash near San Diego. McEntire was in a following plane, and was eomtionally devastated. She dedicated her next album, "For My Broken Heart," to the eight who died.
That proved only a blip on McEntire's career, however, and her 1992 single "It's Your Call" became a country classic.
During the 1990s, McEntire made several withdrawals from and returns to active recording and performing. It is a tribute to her prolific song production that she has released three different "greatest hits" albums. By 2009, she had sold over 50 million records worldwide and moved into seventh place among female artists in all genres. Meanwhile, she became a darling of the awards programs with four Female vocalist of the Year honors from the Country Music Association and numerous Grammy nominations and awards.
McEWntire also moved into other creative arenas, appearing in the horror movie "tremors" and earning acclaim for her stint in the title role of the Broadway revival of "Annie Get Your Gun."
McEntire remarried, to guitarist Narvel Blackstock, in 1989, and that marriage has endured. She and Blackstock have a son, Shelby, born in 1990.