but quickly staked out her own identity as an assertive yet vulnerable modern woman.
was born in the small town of Monticello, GA, in 1964 and grew up on a farm owned by her father, who also worked as a prominent local banker. She loved
as a child and sang in musicals, choral groups, and talent shows while in school. She enrolled at the University of Georgia, but in 1985 she transferred to the music business program at Belmont College in Nashville.
served an internship with MTM Records and soon moved on to become an in-demand demo singer, which resulted in an up-and-coming
hiring her as a backup vocalist.
, she staged a showcase performance in 1990 that landed her a record deal with MCA.
's self-titled debut album was released in 1991, and the lead single, "She's in Love With the Boy," rocketed to the top of the country charts, making her an instant star. Three more singles from the record -- "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" (co-written by Brooks
), "That's What I Like About You," and "The Woman Before Me" -- all went Top Ten, and Yearwood
toured as Brooks
' opening act, gaining immense exposure. As a result, she became the first female country singer ever to sell a million copies of her debut album -- and, a little bit later on, two million. Her follow-up was the acclaimed Hearts in Armor
, which appeared in 1992 during the aftermath of a divorce. Two of its singles, "Wrong Side of Memphis" and the Don Henley
duet "Walkaway Joe," reached the Top Five, and the record as a whole established Yearwood
as an artist of creative ambition; like its predecessor, it also went platinum. The title track of 1993's The Song Remembers When
went to number two, and she followed it with a Christmas album, The Sweetest Gift
, in 1994; that year, she also married Mavericks
bassist Robert Reynolds
In 1995, Yearwood
released her fourth proper album, Thinkin' About You
, another hugely popular collection that featured her second and third number one hits in "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" and the title track, plus another Top Ten in "I Wanna Go Too Far." The record found her music hinting more at adult contemporary-style country-pop, a trend that continued on 1996's Everybody Knows
. "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)" was another chart-topping smash, and the title track also made the Top Five. In 1997, Yearwood
issued her first compilation, Songbook: A Collection of Hits
, which became her first album to top the country charts and which also reached the pop Top Five. She also recorded the Diane Warren
-penned ballad "How Do I Live" for the soundtrack of the movie Con Air, and it was nominated for a Best Song Oscar; it also reached number two on the country charts and nearly made the pop Top 20 as well (though its performance was hurt by a competing version from LeAnn Rimes
). Two new singles from Songbook
were also hugely successful: "In Another's Eyes," a long-awaited duet with Brooks
, hit number two, and "Perfect Love" went all the way to the top. Yearwood
won Female Vocalist of the Year awards from the CMA and ACM in 1997 and 1998, respectively, and she also picked up her first solo Grammy for "How Do I Live," giving her a sort of country equivalent of the Triple Crown.
Now settled into her role as a big-voiced, crossover-friendly diva, Yearwood
released her next all-new album, Where Your Road Leads
, in 1998, with Tony Brown
producing in place of Fundis
. "There Goes My Baby," "Powerful Thing," and "I'll Still Love You More" all went Top Ten, and another duet with Brooks
on the title cut made the Top 20. Also in 1998, Yearwood
made her first real foray into acting, taking a recurring role on the CBS military drama JAG that would last for the next few seasons. Unfortunately, her marriage to Reynolds
broke up, and 2000's Real Live Woman
-- recorded with Fundis
-- was a more personal outing that reflected some of her heartbreak and turmoil. Perhaps as a result, it sold fairly well in spite of not producing any major hit singles. With new producer Mark Wright
behind the boards, Yearwood
returned in 2001 with Inside Out
, which topped the country charts and produced the Top Five smash "I Would've Loved You Anyway." Jasper County came out on MCA Nashville in 2005. After leaving MCA in early 2007, Yearwood
released Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love on Big Machine Records in November of the same year. MCA went on to release Yearwood
's Greatest Hits in September 2007 and the compilation album Love Songs in January 2008.