17 Years Ago: Gretchen Wilson Releases ‘Redneck Woman’
Seventeen years ago today (March 5), Gretchen Wilson was enjoying her last few moments of relative anonymity. It was on this date in 2004 that Wilson's debut single, "Redneck Woman," from her freshman album, Here for the Party, exploded onto the airwaves.
Wilson, who grew up listening to country music, name-checks some of her own favorite artists in "Redneck Woman," including George Strait, Charlie Daniels, Tanya Tucker and Hank Williams Jr., along with rock stars Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, she credits Faith Hill with inspiring her.
“She’s gorgeous. She looks like a supermodel. She’s rolling around in satin sheets. And that was the inspiration behind “Redneck Woman,”” the Illinois native recalls, citing Hill's "Breathe" music video. “I looked at ["Redneck Woman" co-writer] John [Rich] and said, ‘This is probably never gonna happen for me because I’ll never look like that, and I’ll never be that. That is just not the kind of woman I am.’”
Rather than accept her statement, Rich pushed back: “He looked at me [and asked], ‘Well, what kind of woman are you then?’ And I said, ‘I’m a redneck woman.’ Then he said, ‘What’s the matter with that?’” Wilson remembers. “We, at that moment, decided to be as authentic as we could about that kind of a woman, and I felt like it was a responsibility almost at that point to speak to those girls who felt like me.”
Wilson and Rich were good friends by the time they wrote "Redneck Woman." The two, along with several other artists, including James Otto, Damien Horne and Rich's duo partner Big Kenny, formed an informal group called the Muzik Mafia in 2001. The group performed together in local Nashville clubs, along with several other guest artists, developing an almost-instant following and gaining the attention of industry executives in the process.
"Redneck Woman" stayed at the top of the charts for five weeks and became the most successful song of Wilson's career, selling in excess of one million units and earning the 2005 Grammy Awards trophy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The tune and Wilson's subsequent single, the album's title track, helped Here for the Party sell more than 5 million copies and debut at No. 1 on the country albums chart.
"Redneck Woman" is available for download on iTunes.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
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