Tammy Wynette wrote this with Billy Sherrill, a producer, songwriter and record executive who signed Wynette to Epic Records after other labels rejected her. He was known for his elegant and meticulous production style (often adding strings to the mix), which was unusual in the world of country music.
The song is about sticking by your man no matter his indiscretions:
You'll have bad times, and he'll have good times
Doin' things that you don't understand
But if you love him, you'll forgive him
Wynette said that she wrote the song in 15 minutes and spent a lifetime defending it. She insisted that she had no political motive, and that it was "just a pretty love song."
The women's liberation movement ("women's lib"), however, thought the sentiment in the song was contrary to their cause, and Wynette became their example of a compliant wife willing to defer to her husband. When pressed on the issue, she told Melody Maker: "I can sympathize very easily because I have seen it happen in Mississippi where I was raised, and Alabama, growing up as a child, where a woman couldn't make a third of what a man could make doing an identical job. I can sympathize with that, and I feel it's very wrong. A woman should be equal to a man for anything she's capable of doing, but I still feel there's a lot of things she isn't capable of doing. Physically. Personally, I'm not particularly fond of the thought of digging ditches or climbing telephone poles. I'd rather stick with something a little more feminine. I wouldn't want to lose the little courtesies that we've always been extended, like lighting cigarettes and opening doors, and pulling out chairs and things like that. I enjoy that. I guess I just enjoy being a woman."
This became the most successful song of Tammy Wynette's career and has been recorded by many other singers. It hit #1 on the Country charts and found a new audience when it was featured on the soundtrack of the 1970 Jack Nicholson film, Five Easy Pieces. At the time, it was the best selling single of all time by a female country artist in America.
This was the first song Wynette wrote with her producer Billy Sherrill. At the time, she had very little faith in her songwriting, and when she played the song to George Jones, whom she would marry the next year, she didn't get any encouragement.
"I went home and played it for George and he didn't like it," she said in 1978. "He didn't know I'd written it, so I asked him what he didn't like and he said 'I dunno, I just don't care for the song.' That kinda got me started off wrong with 'Stand By Your Man', but it's grown on me now."
Hillary Clinton injected this song into the political landscape in 1992 when she and her husband, Bill Clinton, appeared on the show 60 Minutes to address allegations made by Gennifer Flowers that Bill had an affair with her when he was governor and she was a state employee. After reporter Steve Kroft commented, "I think most Americans would agree that it's very admirable that you've stayed together," Hillary responded:
"You know, I'm not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck, don't vote for him."
This episode of 60 Minutes ran following the Super Bowl and had a huge audience. Bill was running for president and won, earning a second term as well. During his tenure as leader of the free world he got caught having sexual relations with an intern at the White House. Throughout the ordeal, Hillary supported him, standing by her man like Tammy Wynette.
When she launched her own political career, Hillary was seen by detractors as being disingenuous, sticking with Bill only because it was politically expedient. She was elected to the Senate and served two terms, but lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary. When she ran again in 2016, she won the primary but lost the general election to Donald Trump, who made Bill Clinton's infidelity a campaign issue and questioned why Hillary stood by him.
There was a limit to how long Wynette would stand by her man. She was married five times to five different men, and all of those marriages ended in divorce. Her third marriage was a tumultuous one to George Jones, that lasted six years. They divorced in 1975, but worked together again in the '90s, touring and releasing a 1995 duets album called One. Wynette died in 1998 at age 55.
Tammy Wynette was watching when Hillary Clinton invoked her and this song on 60 Minutes. Wynette was livid. She issued a statement saying: "With all that is in me I resent your caustic remark. I, with no apologies, am as angry as I can be with your statement. Mrs. Clinton, you have offended every woman and man who love that song - several million in number. I believe you have offended every true country music fan and every person who has 'made it on their own' with no one to take them to a White House."
Clinton responded: "I didn't mean to hurt Tammy Wynette as a person. I happen to be a country-western fan. If she feels like I've hurt her feelings, I'm sorry about that."
This was the follow-up single to "D-I-V-O-R-C-E
," in which Wynette offers a very different take on how to handle a challenging marriage.
In 1975, this song rose from the ashes to reach #1 on the UK charts and propel Wynette to sudden fame in that country seven years after the song was first released. American country music was largely ignored in the UK, as most Brits couldn't relate to the subject matter. Charlie Rich, however, made a breakthrough in 1974 when his single "The Most Beautiful Girl" went to #2, proving that a country song could be a pop hit in the UK if it had a relatable theme.
Most country singles were released in advance of the International Country Music Festival for artists who were performing on the tour. It took five releases of "Stand By Your Man" to make it a hit. After the original UK release in 1969, Wynette's label, CBS, issued it again in 1971, 1973, and 1974. They tried for the fifth time on February 21, 1975, and strangely, the song made its way to #1 on May 11 and stayed there for three weeks.
Even more bizarre, Wynette pulled out of the festival because her marriage to George Jones was in turmoil, so the song got no tour support. However, her first British tour, which was booked before the song was a hit, brought her to the UK when the song was #1. The tour was extended, and a compilation album issued to satisfy demand for Wynette's catalogue. A few months later, her 1969 hit "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" was also issued, going to #12 in the UK.
In 1991, Wynette appeared on the KLF song Justified And Ancient
, where she was revered as "The first lady of Country." The KLF song was subtitled "Stand by the JAMs" in reference to this title.
Wynette's 1978 autobiography is titled Stand By Your Man. The first line: "The first time I met George Jones, he was in bed with another woman."
This is featured on the popular soundtrack to Sleepless in Seattle (1993). In the movie, the song plays when Meg Ryan determines to stand by her current man rather than pursue a relationship with Tom Hanks.
This earned Wynette a Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1970. The song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
This originally opened with a pedal steel guitar from Pete Drake, who played on Lynn Anderson's "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden
" and Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay
," but Sherrill and Wynette thought the sound was too overwhelming and enlisted session musician Jerry Kennedy to overdub the intro with a simple guitar riff.