Happy birthday to Reba McEntire! The singer was born on March 28, 1955, in McAlester, Okla.

McEntire is the third of four siblings born to Clark and Jacqueline McEntire, the latter of whom aspired to be a singer but became an elementary school teacher instead. However, Jacqueline McEntire passed on her love of music to her children: Along with her older brother Pake and younger sister Susie (her older sister Alice chose not to participate), Reba McEntire formed a singing group called the Singing McEntires. The trio became well-known for performing at local rodeos and events in Oklahoma.

Still, before beginning her legendary country career, McEntire chose to pursue another calling instead: She followed in her mother's footsteps and studied education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University -- that is, until her sophomore year, in 1974, when she performed at the National Rodeo in Oklahoma City. Country artist Red Steagall happened to be in attendance, and he was so impressed by what he heard that he convinced McEntire to pursue country music, helping her land a recording contract with Mercury Records just one year later.

McEntire's self-titled debut album was released in 1977 but failed to produce any hits. It wasn't until her fourth single, "Sweet Dreams," from her sophomore album, Out of a Dream, that she cracked the Top 20 -- but from there, her career took off. McEntire scored her first No. 1 hit with "Can't Even Get the Blues," from her fifth studio album, Unlimited; in 1986, she earned her first chart-topping record, Whoever's in New England, which became her first platinum-selling album as well.

Reba McEntire Through the Years

McEntire boasts an unprecedented record of success in country music. Beginning with her 1980 single "(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven," from her Feel the Fire project, she stayed in the Top 20 for the next 17 years and 35 singles. McEntire has amassed an astonishing 25 No. 1 singles, making her the only country female solo act to have a No. 1 hit in four straight decades. In addition to her chart success, McEntire has also earned dozens of awards and accolades, including multiple CMA Awards, ACM Awards and Grammy Awards.

But it hasn't all been highlights and honors for the singer: In 1991, eight of her band members perished in an airplane crash, after performing at a private show in San Diego, Calif. McEntire says that the memory still brings her to tears, but she also remembers the kindness of others during the tragic time.

“It was a huge outpouring of friends and the community, family, that were there for us, but nobody could replace the ones that we love so much that we lost,” she recalls. “And that’s one of the questions I’ll ask God when I get up there: Why’d you take them so quick? They had so much more to give, and we had so much more to learn from them.”

In addition to her music, McEntire has also enjoyed a successful acting career. The country music hitmaker has appeared in several movies, including Tremors and The Little Rascals, and as the voice of Dixie in The Fox and the Hound 2. Additionally, McEntire's own sitcom, Reba, ran from 2001 to 2007, and she starred in the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun, in the lead role of Annie Oakley.

McEntire became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1986 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2014, she became the first artist signed to the Nash Icon record label.

In 2018, told The Boot she was working on a full-length that was "gonna be probably the most country album I've ever recorded." The resulting effort, Stronger Than the Truth, appeared in 2019 via Big Machine Records.

“I’m very honored and grateful that I get to do what I love so much at the level I’m getting to do it right now," she tells The Boot. "Who could ask for anything more?"

This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.

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