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Reba McEntire: The Country Superstar's Highs, Lows, and Biggest Regret

Reba McEntire received news that would completely derail her back in 2015. As a country superstar and living in the spotlight for decades, Reba thought she had seen it all. However, nothing could prepare her for the heartbreak that was to come.

After 26 years of marriage, her husband, Narvel Blackstock, filed for divorce. Reba said in an interview with CMT, the split wasn’t her idea in “any shape, form, or fashion.” Reba always said that Blackstock isn’t just her husband, but her best friend too. After being completely blindsided, she was about to go through the most terrifying change she couldn’t have prepared herself for.

This is Reba’s McEntire’s life and career, proving that she was always going to be a star… with or without a husband.

Life Flipped Upside-Down

Reba and Narvel had been building a life together since 1989 after playing in a band together for nine years. Reba took on the role of stepmother to Narvel’s three kids and had a son of their own, Shelby. According to CMT, she claimed that she had no clue how her husband was about to ask for a divorce. She admitted at the time that she didn’t only look at him as a husband, but also as a best friend. So how did we get here?

Just a Southern Gal

Reba was born in a small Oklahoma town called McAlester in 1955. Before she ever had dreams of becoming the country music legend she is today, Reba was just a southern girl growing up on her family’s ranch. Her childhood was full of learning how to cook, clean, and take care of the cattle. All of which subsequently taught her to work hard to succeed. Without that kind of structure as a child, she may never have seen the same success.

Growing Up On The Ranch

Reba’s mother also had dreams of becoming a country musician, but her community needed a school teacher, so she knew she had to cut her dreams short. Meanwhile, her grandfather and father were both rodeo steer ropers while five-year-old Reba learned to drive to help her family with the ranch. During the winter, little Reba drove her daddy’s truck and loaded bundles of hay for the cattle.

A Singing Family

Her mother was the first one to instill in her children a passion for country music. At a young age, Reba would perform at various places such as rodeos, radio stations, and along with her family during trips. As time went on, their family was known as the Singing McEntires. Aside from that, Reba would also sing the national anthem during a high school graduation ceremony despite only being in the third grade.

The Success of the Family

As the family’s band Singing McEntires grew, the siblings began performing at dance halls, local bars, honky-tonks, and local rodeos. The group also recorded a song titled “The Ballad of John McEntire,” named after their grandfather. They made a thousand copies and two hits titled “God Never Cried” and “If I Could Only Be With You.” Their songs were played in local radio stations around Oklahoma, and they were also to play live.

Learning a Valuable Lesson

While she was with The Singing McEntires, Reba decided to take up faith and get baptized. She wanted to invite everyone in the dance hall they were performing at to come to church on Sunday morning. Excited to tell her mother about her plan, the response she received turned out to be a lesson Reba would never forget.

Her mother asked her why she thought that those same people did not go to church, to begin with. Reba later explained how she learned a valuable lesson: “That was my first lesson on passing judgment. You don’t know what other people do. You don’t know their heart.” Surely this was a sentiment she carried with her throughout her career, having amassed an enormous fan base with people from all walks of life.

Miss Ford Country

Reba idolized female musicians like Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton growing up. Little did she know that she would match and in some ways surpass them to become one of the best female musicians in history. At only 16 years old, she won an essay contest and was given the title of Miss Ford Country. As a prize, she was allowed to drive a new Ford truck for half a year.

Following In Her Mother's Footsteps

After graduating high school, Reba went to college at Southern Oklahoma University. Just like her mother, she took up education but she minored in music. Aside from studying, Reba would sing anywhere an opportunity was present. She was even classmates with the future country star, Garth Brooks. Although she wanted to become an elementary school teacher like her mom, a series of events would set her on a different path.

The Performance that Changed Her Life

Her career skyrocketed in 1974 when she got a gig singing the national anthem at the National Rodeo in Oklahoma. While singing at the same venue, the country star Red Steagall would then discover the extraordinary Reba. Thanks to Red, he helped Reba start her career and sign with Mercury Records a year later.

The First Marriage

While performing at a different rodeo, she met her first husband, rodeo star Charlie Battles. The two exchanged vows in 1976, which was the same time Reba’s company took off. Although her single “I Don’t Wanna be a One Night Stand” only reached the 88th spot on the Billboard charts, she would hit the 20th spot in 1979 with her song “Sweet Dreams” hit the 19th spot.

Her First Time at the Grand Ole Opry

Reba was asked to perform for the first time at the famous Grand Ole Opry in 1977. Things didn’t go great: a security guard posted at the entrance wouldn’t let her in, and the producers cut her part in half to make way for Dolly Parton. Cut them some slack though, they didn’t know they were dealing with a music legend in the making.

How it All Began

She first met Narval in 1980 as the steel guitarist of her band. After seven years, he became her manager and shoulder to cry on during her divorce with her husband at the time. Their friendship quickly blossomed into something romantic after this.

Wedding Bells Rang

The two got married in 1989, floating on a boat in Lake Tahoe. They went on to take over the music industry and create their own management company Starstruck. Reba also became the step-mother of Narval’s children from his previous marriage and gave birth to their son Shelby the following year.

Life Lessons to Carry On

Reba had already learned how to always put 100% in anything you do and still keep your feet on the ground at a young age. She was also taught to always be humble. These life lessons and proper upbringing have indeed paved the way for the superstar.

Her Legitimate Big Break

After releasing her fifth album Unlimited, Reba finally reached the Billboard charts’ top spot in 1983. However, label pressure to record country ballads led to her departure from Mercury Records. After a year, she signed with MCA Nashville Records and released her 7th album, Just a Little Love.

She Was Contented

Although she wasn’t happy with the direction of her career, a blessing came as she was allowed to have full control over her songs. She released an album titled My Kind of Country, which earned the number one spot on the chart.

Her Interest in Acting

As Reba became a household name in the 80s, her music videos also leveled up as she turned them into theatrical productions. Working in this type of environment sparked her new interest in acting in movies.

Her Dream Came True

Reba would first mark acting off her bucket list when she first appeared in the 1990 movie Tremors. To finish the movie, she supposedly postponed her honeymoon with Narvel. Although her co-star Kevin Bacon criticized her acting, his opinion didn’t matter as she was enjoying the moment of turning her dream into a reality.

The End of Her First Marriage

It may have seemed that Reba and her husband were living the quiet life of luxury on their ranch in Oklahoma, but as her career grew, so did the pressure on their marriage. After endless arguments, the two finally decided to get a divorce in 1987

Death Comes Close

Although she was dominating in 1991, things came crashing down as her bandmates were involved in a plane crash. Upon waking up in her hotel room, Reba got the news that eight band members died on that plane.

She Paid Homage to the People She Lost

Reba created her sixteenth album For My Broken Heart to pay homage to her bandmates involved in the plane crash. The album became a smash with more than 4 million copies made and two songs in the Billboard Charts.

Her Iconic Red Dress

Aside from taking home a Grammy and a CMA Award for her song “Does He Love You?“ She also grabbed attention from her sexy red dress. During an interview, she claimed that her father even asked her if it was worn backward.

She was an Advocate for AIDS

Although AIDS was still a taboo a topic of discussion at the time, Reba turned light on the issue in 1994 with her album Read My Mind. She used her song, “She Thinks His Name Was John” to inform and make people aware of the controversial matter.

Career Speed Bump

After releasing her 19th album, Starting Over, her music career hit a small speed bump. In her defense, it was made out of original recordings of her favorite songs and celebrated her 20th year in the industry. Nevertheless, her album went platinum that year, and was able to get back on her feet after a year.

Her Biggest Regret

Despite critics not being happy with her new album, Reba got an invitation from James Cameron to be part of the movie Titanic. However, she couldn’t join as her schedule couldn’t match the time for shooting. The film would go on to become the most successful of all time, and Reba has expressed regret in not being involved.

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