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Reba McEntire

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Reba Nell McEntire (born on March 28, 1955) is a Grammy Award-winning singer and one of the best-selling country music performers of all time, known for her pop-tinged ballads that include 22 Number-One hits. She has issued 30 albums, with more than 49 million records sold.

McEntire was born in McAlester, Oklahoma to Clark Vincent McEntire and Jacqueline Smith (a sharecropper’s daughter); she grew up learning to ride in rodeos as well as play music. She soon formed a band with her sisters, Alice and Susie, and her brother, Pake, known as The Singing McEntires, and the quartet had a local hit with “The Ballad of John McEntire”, a tribute to their grandfather. After McEntire sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City in 1974, Red Steagall suggested that she go to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a solo career. Around the time of the release of her first album, she married Charlie Battles, a professional steer wrestler and bulldogger, and completed her teaching degree, in case her musical career floundered.

With a contract to Mercury Records, McEntire began her professional career with a hard honky tonk sound, which didn’t go over well at a time when country music was dominated by outlaw country artists like Willie Nelson and David Allan Coe.

“Three Sheets in the Wind”/”I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” became her first charting single in 1978, and was followed by the bigger hit “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven” (1980). With more pop-oriented balladry, McEntire began to expand her audience during the early 1980s, signing to MCA Records in 1984 and becoming one of the best-selling country artists of all time, releasing three volumes of greatest hits collections.

Her first number one single came in 1982 with “Can’t Even Get the Blues No More.” Since then, she’s forked out 21 more chartbusters, which are all recapped on Reba #1’s released in November 2005. The two-disc compilation features all 22 number-one singles in chronological order, including two new tracks “You’re Gonna Be” and “Love Needs a Holiday.” Though officially she has had 22 number one singles in Billboard Magazine, her Reba #1’s release contains a total of 33 hit singles.

She won the Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association four times in a row (a record she holds with Martina McBride), and had dozens of Top Ten hits during the ‘80s. For her contribution to the recording industry, Reba McEntire has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1995, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

She is one of only six solo women (others include Shania Twain, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Carrie Underwood), to win the Country Music Association’s highest honor, “Entertainer of The Year”. Even without the major label support she had enjoyed in the ‘80s, McEntire continued to hit the charts through the 1990s, as well as appearing in television and film, most notably Tremors, a cult horror movie series, Forever Love, and One Night at McCool’s. She also starred as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway, receiving critical acclaim.

She starred in the hit WB television show, Reba (with Texan actor Christopher Rich (American actor) as her philandering ex-husband) for seven seasons, even getting a visit from fellow country star Dolly Parton who played Reba’s character’s supervisor at a real estate firm.

Country music queen Reba McEntire sounds like she feels at home on her Duets (2007) album, with a variety of big-name artists, who wisely adapt to her style rather than making her stretch to accommodate them on. Perhaps the biggest surprise is her duet with Justin Timberlake on “The Only Promise That Remains”, which he wrote for her as an acoustic ballad far removed from most of the music he makes on his own. The power balladry of “Because of You” receives the full diva treatment in its teaming of McEntire with Kelly Clarkson, while Carole King adds some pop buoyancy to “Everyday People” (not the Sly and the Family Stone classic). LeAnn Rimes pays trans-generational homage with opener “When You Love Someone Like That” (which also closes Rimes’ recent Family as a bonus cut). “Does the Wind Still Blow in Oklahoma”, a duet with Ronnie Dunn, finds the pair writing as well as singing together, and Vince Gill offers his “These Broken Hearts” for the duet treatment. Faith Hill and Reba wring high drama from “Sleeping with the Telephone”, which humanizes the war from the perspective of a soldier’s wife whose husband is overseas.

“It was like a family reunion. It was just so much fun!” says the easygoing superstar. And the results? “Well, I’m just so tickled!” she says with her trademark Southern charm. “I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.” Duets was a long time coming, says McEntire. “You have to keep creating things, thinking about what’s next and how to keep it fresh for your fans,” she says. “I’ve always thought a duets album would be a great thing to get to do, and the timing was finally right to make it happen.”

Six years in between solo projects can feel like an eternity for fans. Each year increases expectations that can often lead to disappointment. While full of emotion, there’s no room for disappointment on Reba McEntire’s Keep on Loving You. Reba didn’t pull any punches and lands a knockout of a debut with The Valory Music Co.

The provocative lead-off single, “Strange”, brings an immediate sense of control and comfort heard throughout the album. With a renewed energy not felt since “Rumor Has It”, her first project with longtime producer Tony Brown, there’s never a doubt that this is the real Reba. There’s no costume changes, no acting - just good music.

She’s a vulnerable daughter, wife and mother in “Eight Crazy Hours (in the story of love”) and a woman forced to start anew in “She’s Turning 50 Today”, a song she co-wrote with Liz Hengber and Tommy Lee James, who have both penned numerous hits for the Oklahoma redhead. But Reba is also dedicated in “I Keep on Lovin’ You”, shows a youthful sassiness in “Pink Guitar” and displays honesty, realism and strength in “Consider Me Gone”.

Reba wrote the book on finding relatable music. And if there’s a theme for the album, it’s being comfortable in your own skin - no matter age, status or other unknown variables called life.

She still has her trademark ability to stretch single-syllable words into sentences, but Reba allows the lyrics to speak for themselves, enhancing songs with her vocal prowess instead of work too hard to create power.

With 55 million albums sold, Reba has nothing left to prove, except that she’s recording the best music of her career. This album proves the best music is created when you’re true to yourself, and Keep on Loving You is clearly the best country album released so far in 2009.

Reba’s 34th career studio album highlights include the smash hit, “Turn on the Radio,” the break-out “Somebody’s Chelsea,” co-written by Reba, as well as the superstar’s popular cover of Beyonce’s hit, “If I Were A Boy,” which became a viral sensation when she first performed the song on CMT Unplugged earlier this year.

All the Women I Am (2010), marks Reba’s first project with award-winning producer Dann Huff (Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts) and her second album for The Valory Music Co.

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