Popular and long-lasting Country Music singer who began when she was only 13.
Tanya Denise Tucker (born October 10, 1958) began singing as a small child, and after her family moved to Vegas, she submitted a demo tape to Columbia Records. Initially, Tucker was going to record "The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA", but that song instead went to Donna Fargo. Tucker's breakthrough debut instead ended up being "Delta Dawn". The song was a major crossover hit, and gave her enough momentum for three Columbia albums, all produced by Billy Sherrill.
The next leg of her career was spent on MCA Records between 1975 and 1982. While she had some hits in this timespan, including "Lizzie and the Rainman" (her biggest pop hit), "San Antonio Stroll", and "Here's some Love", her sales and chart performances were slumping. In addition, she had become romantically involved with the much older Glen Campbell, and had begun abusing alcohol and cocaine. Her career went on hiatus from 1983 to 1986, when she returned on Capitol Records to begin a new label relationship that would last for the next decade.
It was during her tenure with Capitol that Tanya re-established herself as a confident adult country singer, avoiding most of the travails of former child stars. Her first few Capitol albums notched such big hits as "I Won't Take Less than Your Love" (featuring Paul Davis and Paul Overstreet), "If It Don't Come Easy", "Strong Enough to Bend", "Down to My Last Teardrop", and "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane". Given her increasing age and a shift toward more pop-oriented country by the end of the decade, she exited Capitol and has only issued two more albums since: Tanya was self-released in 2003, and the mostly cover song album My Turn in 2009. Despite the lack of new material, she has also continued to tour. She did make a comeback in recording with her 2019 album, While I'm Livin', which did become commercially successful and got awarded a few Grammy awards.
Tucker's early period was defined mainly by energetic rock-influenced country, often with dark and gritty themes that belied her age. Her material remained largely mature as she aged, constantly becoming more refined and polished without losing the grit of her naturally raspy voice.
Her older sister LaCosta also had minor success as a country singer not long after she did.
Tropes present in her work:
- Age-Progression Song: "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane" follows a couple throughout their lives: age 15, adulthood, and age 83.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Don't Go Out", her 1990 duet with T. Graham Brown, does this:Tucker: Baby, your heart is in serious danger, don't go out with her
She'll lead you on and treat you like a stranger, don't go out with her
You need someone like me who'll love you endlesslyBrown: Baby, you're headed for a brand new heartache, don't go out with him
The fire at midnight burns out at daybreak, don't go out with him
Darling wake up and see, I'm waiting patientlyBoth: My love is everything you'll ever need
I'll start by holdin' your heart close to meTucker: I know just what she'll do, her kind is never trueBrown: He can't take care of you like me...
- Child Popstar: One of the few to have a successful career in adulthood as well.
- The Cover Changes the Gender: Rare partial example. "Don't Go Out" was originally recorded by Foster & Lloyd. When Tanya Tucker covered it with T. Graham Brown, his verses kept the male perspective, while hers were changed to a female one.
- Dead Sparks: "Love Me Like You Used To" says it in the title.
- Death by Woman Scorned: "Blood Red and Goin' Down" is about this. Gender Flipped, as the husband is the scorned party.
- Dual-Meaning Chorus: An extreme example in "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane". The first and third verses are entirely identical except for one word ("He's 15, she's barely driving a car" is changed to "He's 83..."). But this single change of words is enough to recontextualize the ending line, which says how they'll "spread their wings and fly / like two sparrows in a hurricane..."
- Former Child Star: Her late 80s-onward career was so successful that it's easy to forget her first hits came at age 13.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: The controversial cover for her TNT album has her dressed in this fashion.
- Intentional Heartbreaker: "I'll Come Back As Another Woman" has the narrator vowing this as revenge against a guy who did this to her.I'll come back as another womanOne with all the secrets to your heartI'll come back as another womanI'll be the one you burn forThat you reach for in the darkI'll be the one who breaks your devil heart
- Mistaken for Pedophile: "What's Your Mama's Name" tells of a man named Buford Wilson who asks a young girl the title question upon thinking that she is his estranged daughter, and is arrested after this encounter is mistaken for a proposition. In the second verse, the man is found dead, and a letter in his pocket reveals that the girl was indeed his daughter.
- Nobody Thinks It Will Work: "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane" follows the typical formula of a relationship that survives into old age, despite derision from the couple's peers.
- Rape and Revenge: "No Man's Land" tells the story of Molly Marlo, a beautiful young woman who years ago was raped by a guy named Barney Dawson, and will have no man after what happened to her. She goes to school to become a nurse. The song closes with Barney in prison, deathly ill and in pain, happy to see the nurse arrive until he realizes exactly who she is.
- Vocal Evolution: While her voice was always raspy and mature even at 13, some of her earlier songs have far more vibrato.