Strong in her conviction and musical delivery, Trisha Yearwood empowered millions of women through her music. She began her career as a backup singer in Nashville and landed a recording contract with the help of longtime friend Garth Brooks. Yearwood released her self-titled debut album in 1991 and won raves for the hit single "She's in Love with the Boy." The country singer further rose to prominence with Hearts in Armor (1991) and Thinkin' About You (1995), albums that launched her as a crossover pop artist. She won a Grammy Award for her rendition of the Diane Warren-penned ballad "How Do I Live" for the 1997 action-drama "Con Air," which became one of the biggest selling movie theme songs in history. Yearwood also won kudos for her other projects, which included a recurring acting role on the drama series "JAG" (NBC, 1995-96; CBS, 1997-2005) and releasing a series of cookbooks. After a longstanding friendship with Brooks - including a rumored affair while both were married to other partners - she eventually married him in 2005 and became one-half of country music's power couple. From handfuls of accolades to platinum-selling albums, Yearwood stayed true to her roots and carved out a career that influenced many artists that followed in her footsteps.
Patricia Lynn Yearwood was born on Sept. 19, 1964 in Monticello, GA. She was raised in a small farming community by her parents Jack Howard Yearwood, a banker, and Gwen Yearwood, a teacher. The future star developed a love for music early on, listening to country artists such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, and Southern rock groups like The Allman Brothers Band. She graduated an A-student from Piedmont Academy in 1982, followed by a two-year tenure at Young Harris College in Georgia. She attended a semester at the University of Georgia before transferring to Belmont University in Nashville, TN to major in business administration. Yearwood then took an internship at MTM Records, where she was hired full-time following her graduation in 1987. She married her first husband, musician Chris Latham, that same year. Working at the record label provided Yearwood an opportunity to showcase her vocal talent. She recorded several demo tapes and sang backup vocals for up-and-coming artists. One of these artists was Garth Brooks, who was recording his second multi-platinum album No Fences (1990). Impressed with his backup singer, Brooks introduced Yearwood to his producer and helped her land a contract with MCA Records.
Yearwood released her self-titled debut album in 1991, which spawned the hit single "She's in Love with the Boy." The song - originally written in the 1970s and offered to country legend Kenny Rogers - topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart and helped Yearwood become the first female country artist to sell a million copies of her debut album. She was also named Favorite New Country Artist at the 1992 American Music Awards. The red-hot singer went on to receive critical raves for her sophomore effort, Hearts in Armor, written following her divorce from first husband Latham. The ballad-heavy album featured the singles "Wrong Side of Memphis," "Woman Walk the Line," and a duet with Don Henley titled "Walkaway Joe." The album peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and landed at No. 46 on the Billboard 200, which signaled Yearwood's mainstream crossover appeal. The singer further pushed her creative boundaries further with her third album The Song Remembers When (1993), which included folk, rock and pop-inspired tracks. That same year, Yearwood was the subject of writer and reporter Lisa Gubernick's biography, Get Hot or Go Home: Trisha Yearwood, the Making of a Nashville Star. The book chronicled Yearwood's life in the recording studio and on the road, while paving the way for other country artists to achieve mainstream success. She was married a second time in 1994, to Robert Reynolds, bass player for country band The Mavericks.
In 1995, Yearwood released Thinkin' About You, one of the most critically acclaimed albums of her career. Aimed at a more adult contemporary and country pop audience, the album included two chart-topping singles, the title track and "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)." Some critics even compared the album to those recorded by singer-songwriter Linda Ronstadt in the 1970s. That same year, Yearwood won her first Grammy Award, along with Aaron Neville, for the song "I Fall to Pieces," which they recorded for the 1994 compilation album Rhythm, Country and Blues. The singer landed at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and topped the country albums chart in 1997 with (Songbook) A Collection of Hits, which featured Yearwood's biggest singles as well as three new tracks. One of the new songs included was "How Do I Live," a ballad written by Diane Warren and originally recorded by fellow country artist LeAnn Rimes for the action-drama "Con Air." The film's producers reportedly asked Rimes to re-record the song to achieve a more pop sound, but when she refused, Yearwood was offered the job. "How Do I Live" made Grammy history in 1998 when both artists were nominated for the same song, in the same category. Yearwood ended up winning the award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
The following year, Yearwood was induced as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, joining her musical idols Hank Williams and Patsy Cline in one of country music's highest honors. Aside from her music, Yearwood branched out to other projects throughout her career. She made her acting debut in 1994 with a guest appearance on "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" (CBS, 1993-98). In 1997, Yearwood landed a recurring role on the military drama series "JAG" as a Navy coroner and forensic specialist. An avid home-chef, Yearwood collaborated with her mother and sister Beth in publishing two cookbooks, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen (2008) and Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood (2010). Yet even with all her successful endeavors, Yearwood was not able to avoid the pitfalls of fame, which included her second divorce in 1999, and a widespread rumor that she had been having an ongoing affair with longtime collaborator and friend Garth Brooks. While the couple denied they were involved in a secret romantic relationship, Brooks admitted he had been unfaithful to his wife Sandy Mahl in the 1990s. Following Brooks' divorce in 2001, he and Yearwood went public with their relationship. He proposed to her during a concert in Bakersfield, CA in May 2005, and in December of that year, the couple tied the knot at their home in Owasso, OK. After taking some time off from recording, Yearwood returned with her ninth album Jasper County (2005), which landed at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart. She released her second compilation album Love Songs (2008), a collection of her hit ballads. In 2011, Yearwood was reportedly tapped to host her own cooking show on The Food Network.
By Marc Cuenco