With a little help from Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings initially wrote and recorded this country-rock number as the title track of his 1971 album. He was staying at a motel in Fort Worth, Texas, when he got the idea from a newspaper ad about Tina Turner.
He recalled in The Billboard Book Of Number One Country Hits, "I'd been reading an ad for Ike and Tina Turner and it said, 'Tina Turner singing songs about good-hearted women loving good-timing men.' I thought, 'What a great country song title that is!'"
Jennings and Nelson sussed out the song over a game of poker, trading lyrics while Nelson's wife Connie wrote them down. In fact, both of their wives (Jennings was married to fellow country singer Jessi Colter), served as inspiration.
"I think Connie and Jessi both were the object of that song," Nelson added. "Naturally, we started thinking about the ones who were having to put up with us at that particular time."
Jennings' solo version peaked at #3 on the Country chart in 1972. Although he only contributed two lines, Nelson received half of the royalties.
This became a huge hit for Jennings and Nelson when it was remixed and re-released as a duet in 1976. Aside from peaking at #1 on the Country chart, it brought the country stars mainstream attention by crossing over to the Hot 100 at #25 and going to #16 hit on the Adult Contemporary chart. That same year, it was named Single of the Year the CMA Awards.
Capitalizing on the success, the pair reunited to record the duet album Waylon & Willie
in 1978, which featured the hit "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Jennings had recorded a concert version for Waylon Live, which served as a basis for the duet with Nelson. "I just took my voice off and put Willie's on in different places," he explained. "Willie wasn't within 10,000 miles when I recorded it." He also added canned crowd noises to add to the live feel.
The duet was included on the 1976 album Wanted! The Outlaws, a compilation of tunes from Jennings, Nelson, Colter, and Tompall Glaser. It was the first Nashville package to be certified Platinum in the US for sales of a million copies.
The release touted the artists as leaders of the "outlaw movement," a progressive fringe of the Country genre - one that didn't really exist, according to RCA exec Jerry Bradley.
"The outlaw movement? There was no outlaw movement," he claimed in The Billboard Book Of Number One Country Hits. "It was a damn album cover called The Outlaws, but folklore made it into this great story."
More than a decade after her ad inspired the song, Tina Turner covered this for her 1988 album, Goes Country. It was also covered by LeAnn Rimes, Hank Williams III, George Jones, and Mel Street.
"Good Hearted Woman" was used in these movies:
The Unforeseen (2007)
Uncle Frank (2002)
White Palace (1990)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
And these TV shows:
Parenthood ("Lost And Found" - 2010)
The Rockford Files ("Heartaches Of A Fool" - 1978)