Fifty-three years ago country music legend, Tammy Wynette recorded a song about shielding children from painful adult realities.
Remember when your parents spelled out the words “ice cream” so that you wouldn’t lose your mind if you heard them talking about it? Well, Tammy Wynette does the same thing in her song, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” but with a much more serious topic. The song is about a woman talking to her husband about finalizing their divorce. However, she spells the word so that their young son isn’t crushed by the topic. During the song, Tammy sings, “Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today. Me and little J-O-E will be goin’ away. I love you both and it will be pure H-E double L for me. Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”
During the 60s and 70s, Tammy Wynette was a voice for women who previously felt unheard. So, it’s no surprise that her song, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” quickly soared to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The song also landed in the number 63 position on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, Tammy titled her third studio album after the song. The album also reached number one on the Billboard Country Albums chart.
What’s the Story Behind Tammy Wynette’s Song?
“D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was written by songwriters Bobby Braddock and Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr. At the time, Tammy Wynette was annulling her second marriage. So, she was able to lend an authentic personal experience to the song while recording. During an interview, Braddock talked about writing the song.
“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. But that song did eventually get written and Tammy Wynette recorded it a few years later,” said Braddock. “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.”
So, Braddock did what every smart person does when they hit a snag in life, he called his fellow songwriting friend to help him out.
“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. Curly’s got this real lonesome, sad voice as a singer. And he [sang a mournful melody],” said Braddock.
Despite the help, Putman initially did not want credit for his help with the song.
“He didn’t want to take any part of the song or put his name on it, because he was more established than I was. But we compromised and he took 25 percent and put his name on it,” said Braddock. “It was not very long at all before Tammy recorded it. It was my first number one. Looking back on it now, I think the song’s pretty corny. But I was glad to have it.”