50 Years Ago: Tammy Wynette Hits No. 1 With ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’
On June 29, 1968, Tammy Wynette hit No. 1 with "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." The song was at the top of the U.S. country charts 50 years ago today.
Co-written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman — the latter of whom also wrote Dolly Parton's first hit, "Dumb Blonde" — the wrenching song is from the perspective of a woman explaining to her four-year-old son that his parents' marriage is ending. To make matters worse, she's taking one of his siblings with her, it appears: "I love you both and it will be pure H-E-double-L for me," Wynette sings. "Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E."
Wynette spells out the word "divorce" to soften the blow — much like parents would spell out words they didn't want their kids to understand — but she is gutted to be leaving. She sings, "I spell out all the hurtin' words / And turn my head when I speak / 'Cause I can't spell away this hurt / That's drippin' down my cheek."
Although Wynette was notoriously married multiple times, the origins of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" were more universal: "I had a song called "I L-O-V-E Y-O-U (Do I Have to Spell It Out for You)" and hit kind of a snag," Braddock told Rolling Stone Country in 2015. "I got the idea of a couple that spells in front of their kid so the kid won't hear all this disturbing stuff about his parents getting a divorce. Months went by and nobody recorded it.
"I asked Curly Putman why nobody was recording the song. He said the melody for the title line was too happy. The melody I had for the song was sort of like a soap commercial," Braddock adds. So, Putman changed the melody, which did the trick.
"D-I-V-O-R-C-E" was the third straight Wynette solo single to hit No. 1 on the country charts; the tune also crossed over to the Billboard pop charts, peaking at No. 63. The song has endured over the years as well: Wynette's version of the song popped up in the films Five Easy Pieces and Brokeback Mountain.