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Story Behind the Song: Gretchen Wilson, ‘Redneck Woman’

Gretchen Wilson had no idea when she released her debut single, “Redneck Woman,” what a phenomenon it would become. The song, written by Wilson and John Rich and released on Wilson’s Here for the Party album, began as a response to a multi-platinum crossover hit from one of country music’s biggest — and most beautiful — stars.

With lines such as,“Well, I ain’t never been the Barbie doll type / No, I can’t swig that sweet champagne / I’d rather drink beer all night,” Wilson unintentionally set off a revolution in country music, and shot to superstar status with a single song. Below, she tells The Boot the story behind the hit.

This was before Big & Rich, before Gretchen Wilson: The Muzik Mafia was really just starting to come together, and I was just learning to be a songwriter in Nashville. I was in John Rich’s apartment — believe it or not, it was a little apartment at that time — we were getting ready to write a song.

He said, “Hey, do you want a cup of coffee?” I said, “Sure.” So he disappears around the corner to the kitchen. Meanwhile, I’m left in the living room, watching this television set, and on this television set was one of the music channels, and Faith Hill’s “Breathe” was on. Every woman and man remembers that video, because she’s a beautiful, gorgeous woman, rolling around, looking like a supermodel, in satin or silk sheets; she looks like a million dollars.

When John came back into the living room and put the coffee down, I had this look of disappointment on my face. He said, “What’s the matter with you?” I said, “This is crazy. I’m never going to make it; I don’t think I’m going to make it in this industry.”

He said, “Why?” I said, “Look at her. If that is what you have to be to be a country music artist, it’s never going to happen. I’m not that; I’ll never be that.”

He said, “Well then, what are you?” I said, “Well, I guess I’m just a redneck woman. That’s what I grew up around. That’s all the woman I know, are redneck woman. I don’t think I can do that.”

He said, “Well, you don’t have to do that. Let’s write “I’m a Redneck Woman” today.”

That’s how the song got started: It was, let’s … not write to chase what other women are doing. It ended up being not just a song about rednecks; it was a song for every woman I grew up around, every woman who is so comfortable in her own skin, no matter what the rest of the world is telling her about what she should look like, who she is married to, what she is driving, how many kids she is supposed to have.

I grew up around a lot of really, really strong women, who are so proud of the things that they’ve done and what they have and who they are. I think that’s a great way to be in this world.

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