Womack, Lee Ann
After working in the music industry as a promoter and songwriter for a number of years, country music singer Lee Ann Womack released a debut album of her own in 1997. With one-half million records sold in the first year, Womack ranked as a solid hit-maker by the end of the decade, with three albums and several hit singles to her credit. By the end of the decade, Womack had collected an impressive cache of awards from major music associations, including best new female vocalist of 1997, favorite new country artist of 1998, and single of the year along with song of the year in 2000. She had barely exceeded the status of a newcomer, yet already she had amassed a battery of attentive fans, attracted by her fresh talent. Critics hailed her forthright and traditional approach to country music. The younger generation of country musicians identified with her uncluttered singing style and her capable guitar playing. Womack’s twangy vocals further imbued her recordings with a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of great country music crooners, and her songwriting efforts have brought her into collaborations with some of the classic country artists of the late twentieth century.
Womack was born on August 19, 1966, in Jacksonville, Texas. She was the second of two daughters of Ann and Aubrey Womack. Her mother was a schoolteacher; her father was a full-time high school principal and a part-time disc jockey. As a young child, Womack’s love of music was apparent. She studied piano and enjoyed her many trips to the radio station with her father. Womack in fact harbored a steadfast dream of going to Nashville and might otherwise have grown discontented with life in her small Texas town. Instead, she was attracted to the local celebrity status of her father in his radio career at KEBE-AM Jacksonville, and she resolved to emulate his success in her own way by joining the ranks of country musicians whose voices drifted across the radio waves all day long.
After graduation from Jacksonville High School in 1984, Womack enrolled in a country music curriculum at South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas, against the advice of her parents and counselors. As a college student she toured as a vocalist with the school band, County Caravan, yet by the end of her first year at South Plains—overpowered by her own eagerness—she abandoned the associate degree program and quit the junior college. At 18 years of age and determined to head for Nashville, she made a compromise with her parents and enrolled at Tennessee’s Belmont University (then Belmont College) in Nashville for the following school year. At Belmont she studied commercial aspects of the music business and lived in a dormitory at the insistence of her parents.
Womack entered Belmont as a sophomore and was beside herself with enthusiasm at being in Nashville. She wasted little time in securing a student internship in the A&R department at MCA Records, a job geared
Born on August 19, 1966, in Jacksonville, TX; daughter of Aubrey and Ann Womack; married Jason Sellers, 1990; divorced, 1997; married, Frank Liddell, November, 1999; daughters, Aubrie Lee (with Sellers), Anna Lise (with Liddell).Education: South Plains Junior College, Levelland, TX, 1984; Belmont College (now Belmont University), 1985-90.
Student intern with MCA Records, late 1980s; songwriter, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, 1995-96; signed with Decca Records, 1996; released debut album, Lee Ann Womack, 1997; released Some Things I Know, 1998; signed with MCA Nashville, 1999; released I Hope You Dance, 2000.
Awards: Best New Female Vocalist, Academy of Country Music, 1997; Favorite New Country Artist, American Music Awards, 1998; Single of the Year, Country Music Association, 2000; Song of the Year, Country Music Association, 2000.
Addresses: Manager —The Erv Woolsey Company, 1000 18th Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37212, phone: (615) 329-2402. Bookings—Buddy Lee Attractions, 38 Music Square, Suite #300, Nashville, TN 37203, phone: (615) 244-4336, fax: (615) 726-0429. Website —Lee Ann Womack Official Website:http://www.leeannwomack.com.
to upper classmen, but one that she secured nonetheless through unflappable persistence. Although she continued her studies until 1990, she left school shortly before securing a degree. She was in fact on the verge of graduation when she quit her final class requirements to pursue an affair of the heart; that same year she married her college sweetheart, musician Jason Sellers. As a newlywed, Womack worked as a waitress, and for a brief time, at a day care center following the birth of her first child. Overall, though, Womack remained focused in pursuit of her career. In 1995, she signed with Sony/ATV Tree Publishing as a songwriter. There she co-wrote songs both for and with some of the prominent personalities in country music. She collaborated with Whisperin’ Bill Anderson on occasion, and Ricky Skaggs picked up one of her songs, “I Don’t Remember Forgetting,” for inclusion on an album.
Ultimately it was the breakup of her young marriage that left Womack as a single mother in the mid 1990s and spurred her to pursue her aspiration in earnest. She held tenaciously to her desire to sing and secured a simple, acoustic audition for MCA Nashville chairman Bruce Hinton. Hinton spoke nothing but praise for the promising talent of the young Womack, according to Billboard ’s Chet Flippo, and soon afterward Womack accepted a contract offer from Decca Records.
Early in 1997, Womack appeared live in her debut in which she was introduced by her father via videotape at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. The introduction by her own father left Womack emotionally charged for her performance at the seminar with attendees numbering approximately 2, 500 industry members, many of which were disc jockeys. Thus, by the release of her debut album on Decca in the following May, her advance single, “Never Again, Again” had made playlists and charts already since early March. Advance play of a subsequent single, “The Fool,” generated a renewed swell of anticipation mere weeks before the ultimate release of the self-titled album.
The traditional country-style inflection of Womack’s singing struck a chord with country music lovers and earned her the title of Best New Female Vocalist of 1997 from the Academy of Country Music (ACM). She was nominated as the Horizon Breaking Artist at the Country Music Awards (CMA), and Billboard named her the top new artist that year. Womack’s debut album produced a bevy of hit singles, including “A Little Past Little Rock” in addition to “The Fool” and “Never Again, Again.” The single “The Fool” secured a spot at number one on the charts. David Hajdu cited her debut album among the top three country albums of 1997 in Entertainment Weekly. The following year Womack secured the title of Favorite New Country Artist at the American Music Awards (AMA) and released a follow-up album, Some Things I Know. Sales of her earlier album meanwhile topped 500,000 units that year.
When Decca Records shut down in 1999, Womack migrated to the MCA Nashville label. Her third album was released on the new label in 2000 and met with instant success. The recording, I Hope You Dance, made its debut at number one on the Billboard country music chart. I Hope You Dance and its popular title track earned Womack an impressive six CMA award nominations that year; she won two of them: Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Soon afterward, early in 2001, the announcement was made that I Hope You Dance had earned six additional award nominations from the Academy of Country Music. The nominations included Best Album, Best Single and Best Song for the title track by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, and Best Video, also for the title track. Additionally, “I Hope You Dance” received a nomination for Best Vocal Event for the title track performance with Sons of the Desert. Womack received a sixth nomination for Best Female Vocalist.
According to Time, Womack’s professional tenacity had earned her the status of a permanent fixture in country music. Her unmistakably countrified voice has been compared to Tammy Wynette. In 2000, People’s Ralph Novak called her an “erstwhile Texas firebrand” and declared I Hope You Dance as Womack’s best effort at that point. Hinton called the record “a career record,” according to Deborah Price and Chuck Taylor in Billboard. Jamie Schilling Fields noted in Texas that Womack “works a sob” with her “cake-sweet soprano that sings like it talks in small-town cain’t’s and git’s,” and commented candidly that, “her songs are great.” Although Womack admits that much of her music presents an underlying theme relating to so-called cheating hearts, she voiced disapproval at such a lifestyle and earned a reputation for moralizing to her band and entourage about marital fidelity.
From the first appearance of her debut album in 1997, Womack created a stir among established country music superstars. Among them, Loretta Lynn was inspired to write possible songs for her, and Womack received a gift of a trademark red, white, and blue guitar from cowboy crooner Buck Owens. Other popular singers eagerly collaborated with Womack as word of her talent rippled throughout the country music industry. She has made recordings with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, and Mark Chesnutt.
“Never Again, Again,” Decca, 1997.
“The Fool,” Decca, 1997.
“A Little Past Little Rock,” Decca, 1998.
“I Hope You Dance,” MCA Nashville, 2001.
Lee Ann Womack, Decca, 1997.
Some Things I Know (includes “If You’re Ever Down in Dallas” and “The Man Who Made My Mama Cry”), Decca, 1998.
I Hope You Dance, MCA Nashville, 2000.
“If You’re Ever Down in Dallas” (with Jason Sellers), Sony/ ATVTree Publishing, 1998.
“The Man Who Made My Mama Cry” (with Billy Lawson and Dale Dodson), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, 1998.
World Almanac & Book of Facts, 2000, World Almanac Education Group, Inc.
Billboard, April 5, 1997, p. 1 ; August 23, 1997, p. 100; August 22, 1998, p. 25; May 31, 2000, p. 5; July 1, 2000, p. 68; March 10, 2001, p. 6.
Entertainment Weekly, January 2, 1998, p. 162.
People, June 19, 2000, p. 45; July 31, 2000, p. 129.
Texas, October 1998, p. 80; October 2000, p. 24.
Time, August 14, 2000, p. 80.
“Lee Ann News and Facts,” Country.tzo.com, http://www.country.tzo.com/public/law_news.htm (April 10, 2001).
“Lee Ann Womack: I Hope You Dance,” MCA Nashville, http://mca-nashville.com/leeannwomack/bio.htm (April 9, 2001).
"Womack, Lee Ann." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/womack-lee-ann
"Womack, Lee Ann." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/womack-lee-ann
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
Womack, Lee Ann
LEE ANN WOMACK
Born: Jacksonville, Texas, 19 August 1966
Genre: Country, Pop
Best-selling album since 1990: I Hope You Dance (2000)
Hit songs since 1990: "I Hope You Dance," "I'll Think of a Reason Later"
Possessing a bell-clear soprano voice that recalls legendary country/pop singer Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack brought a refreshing air of ingenuousness to country music in the 1990s. Like many modern country artists, Womack is comfortable performing in a wide range of styles, from tough 1950s-styled honky-tonk to sophisticated 1970s "countrypolitan." Moving from rocking up-tempo numbers to string-laden love ballads, often within the course of the same album, Womack shows deep respect for tradition while remaining mindful of the slick, polished prerequisites of contemporary country. Although her hit "career song" of 2000, "I Hope You Dance," threatens to define her in the same way that country star Tammy Wynette was forever linked with the 1968 hit, "Stand By Your Man," Womack possesses the talent and ingenuity to overcome this limitation. Her post-2000 work, however, has pointed to artistic confusion stemming from the pressures of following up such a massive hit.
Womack spent her early years in Jacksonville, Texas, where her disc jockey father exposed her to a broad range of country music. As a child she would visit her father in his studio, often helping him choose which records to play. Enrolling in South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas, she studied country and bluegrass music, in one of the first academic programs of its kind. Like fellow 1990s artist Brad Paisley, Womack transferred to Belmont University, located in the country music hub of Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville, she interned at MCA Records, one of the country's leading labels, and, by 1995, began penning songs for stars such as Bill Anderson. Eventually, she was signed by MCA's Decca imprint and in 1997 released her self-titled debut album. From the opening track, the fiddle-soaked heartache ballad, "Never Again, Again," Womack impresses with her mature phrasing and appealing resemblance to Parton. Elsewhere on the album, such as on the rock-influenced "A Man with 18 Wheels," Womack displays the ability to shift toward tougher material without losing her unique vocal identity.
Womack's follow-up album, Some Things I Know (1998), evinces an even deeper appreciation for country's timeless reliance on emotion and heartache. While not released as a single, "The Man Who Made My Mama Cry," is a highlight of Womack's career, a personal and moving account of an absentee father who suddenly reappears: "All I know about you is how to live without you." Singing against an arrangement that surges with gushing strings and cooing vocal choruses, Womack has rarely sounded so committed to the "countrypolitan" style of 1970s country, yet her self-assured perspective remains wholly contemporary. Despite the strengths of Some Things I Know, Womack's biggest commercial success lay just around the corner, with the 2000 release of I Hope You Dance.
Now a country and pop star, Womack returned in 2002 with Something Worth Leaving Behind. Capitalizing on the sexy image of hit country artists such as Shania Twain, the album cover features Womack dressed in a provocative outfit with teased blonde hair. The music inside sounds just as heavily styled, with scattershot production ranging from the breezy pop of "When You Gonna Run to Me" to the hard rock–edged "I Need You." Although the latter song, sparked by the daring line, "I need something like morphine, only better," finds Womack singing with new force in the manner of rock singer Sheryl Crow, critics observe that the album as a whole feels disjointed, too calculated to generate much warmth.
Womack was one of the most likable personalities to emerge in 1990s country music. Beyond her lilting voice, Womack's appeal lies in her ability to pull together a range of past country styles, treating each with respect and sensitivity. Although this approach failed in the wake of her big hit, "I Hope You Dance," Womack clearly possesses the talent to maintain her rank as a singer of intelligence and passion.
Spot Light: "I Hope You Dance"
In 1999 Nashville songwriter Tia Sillers was recovering from a messy divorce, attempting to sort out her life by vacationing on a Florida beach. "As I was leaving the beach," she told Songwriter Universe magazine, "I remember thinking that things weren't really so bad . . . that's when I came up with the line, 'I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.'" The line became a centerpiece of the song, "I Hope You Dance," co-written with songwriter Mark Sanders. After completing a demo version, Sillers and Sanders presented the song to Mark Wright, producer for rising country star Lee Ann Womack. Hearing its inspirational lyrics, written as a message of self-respect from parent to child, Womack decided to record the song, thinking of her two young children. When released in 2000, "I Hope You Dance" proved extremely influential, enhancing country's mainstream profile by crossing over to the pop charts and earning a Grammy Award for Best Country Song. While lyrics such as, "I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance," suggest a reliance on easy platitudes, the song is balanced by country group Sons of the Desert, whose backup chorus of "who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone" invests the song with a humbling awareness of life's disappointments. The recording's most impressive element, however, is Womack herself, who conveys the perfect combination of strength and tenderness.
Lee Ann Womack (Decca Nashville, 1997); Some Things I Know (Decca Nashville, 1998); I Hope You Dance (MCA Nashville, 2000); Something Worth Leaving Behind (MCA Nashville, 2002); The Season for Romance (MCA Nashville, 2002).
"Womack, Lee Ann." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/womack-lee-ann
"Womack, Lee Ann." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/womack-lee-ann