Mindy McCready: Talented but troubled country singer

 

In 1996 Mindy McCready burst on to the American country music scene with her album Ten Thousand Angels, and a No 1 single, "Guys Do It All the Time". She was a troubled individual and the pressures of success only compounded her problems. She described her own existence as "a whirlwind of chaos" – and after a life as dramatic as any of her songs, McCready apparently took her own life on 17 February.

Malinda Gayle McCready was born in a trailer park in Fort Myers, Florida in November 1975 and began singing in church when she was just three years old. She would go trekking in the Florida Everglades with her Cherokee Indian grandfather, dodging alligators and snakes. Her parents were divorced when she was 11 and she lived with her mother and her mother's new partner. She loved contemporary country music and sang in karaoke bars.

When McCready was 14, she moved in with the family of her 17-year-old boyfriend, and two years later she was involved with a 26-year-old policeman. Despite her colourful life, she graduated from high school when she was 16 – and her mother hoped she would study law. However, McCready moved to Nashville when she was 18 and sang for anyone who would listen. She looked beautiful and sang well and she was signed by BNA, which was distributed by RCA. Some top Nashville songwriters supplied the material for her first album, Ten Thousand Angels, which went on to sell two million copies. It was produced by David Malloy, who also became her partner.

The title track, which was about a girl struggling with temptation, was a hit song, but the best known number was "Guys Do It All the Time", a witty look at the double standards of male chauvinism. The song was hugely popular with female fans during her many stadium shows – although it did prompt an "answer" version, "Wives Do It All the Time" by the country singer Cledus T Judd.

Her first career problems came with a management deal she had signed when she was young. She freed herself by filing for bankruptcy, before re-signing with BNA.

Although McCready thought she sang better on her Ten Thousand Angels follow-up, If I Don't Stay the Night (1997), the album sold only 800,000 copies. The opening song, "What If I Do", was about a girl losing her virginity – and there was also the sensual "Fine Art of Holding a Woman". The album included "Oh Romeo", her only UK hit. The song maintained that Juliet was wrong and that no man was worth dying for. McCready said, "All my songs are about sex. Everybody's doing it, aren't they?"

McCready sang on an awards show honouring Brenda Lee, but the TV series Naked Nashville showed how difficult she could be and led to her leaving a tour starring Tim McGraw.

In 1997 McCready was engaged to the actor Dean Cain, TV's Superman, but she said after a year that she was not cut out to be Mrs Superman. She went on to date the ice hockey player Drake Berehowsky and the baseball star Roger Clemens.

Her third album, I'm Not So Tough (1999), was more rock-based, but the change didn't work as it only sold 144,000 copies. The label dropped her, and in 2002 she recorded Mindy McCready for Capitol Records; but again, sales were limited.

In 2003 McCready started dating the country singer Billy McKnight. In 2005, McKnight was charged with attempted murder after beating and choking her. McCready then changed her story, but McKnight was still jailed for a month. They reunited and their son, Zander, was born in 2006.

In 2004 McCready was found guilty of using a fake prescription to buy drugs; she was fined and ordered to perform community service. The following year, she was found guilty of driving on a suspended licence and was then arrested for buying a boat under a stolen identity. She was jailed in 2007.

In 2008 she was found unconscious after overdosing in Florida, and later in the year she slashed her wrists. In 2009 she recounted her troubles on the TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew. She claimed to be clean, but she was soon back in hospital following an overdose.

Her fifth album, I'm Still Here, was released in 2010, but it was upstaged by a pornographic DVD which had somehow got on to the market. She had a second son, Zayne, with her record producer David Wilson. Wilson killed himself in January and McCready's body was found in the same place a month later.

Malinda Gayle McCready, singer: born Fort Myers, Florida 30 November 1975; died Heber Springs, Arkansas 17 February 2013.

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