When it comes to country music, divorce is anything but a taboo subject. From classic groundbreakers to modern superstars, the genre's artists don't shy away from the messy details that come with married couples breaking up and breaking down.
Some of the songs on this list of the Top 10 Country Songs About Divorce are playful, and some are heartbreaking. Read on to see if your favorite (or least favorite) is on the list.
"She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)"Jerry Reed
Lyrics About the Split: “She got the goldmine, she got the goldmine / I got the shaft, I got the shaft / They split it right down the middle / And then they gave her the better half.”
If the narrator of this song is to be believed, his ex-wife made off with the following in the divorce: the color television set, the house, the kids and both cars. Tack on alimony and child support, and the fact that our poor narrator is allegedly “workin’ two shifts, eatin’ baloney,” and it sounds like a rough break ... but let’s just say that we’re interested to hear her side of the story!
Lyrics About the Split: “Take the house that my sweat built you / Here’s the keys to both the cars / I’ll do you up the title to my ol' Harley in the barn.”
Eddie Montgomery, one of the songwriters on this tune, has shared that this song was inspired by his divorce -- but the details don’t come from his situation. In the song, the narrator tells his ex to take everything -- the house, the cars, the Harley, his dad’s old Gibson and his grandma’s diamond ring, to start -- as long as he can keep the kids. In real life, Montgomery says that “nobody really wins in a divorce.”
Lyrics About the Split: “Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today / Me and little J-O-E will be going away / I love you both, and this will be pure H-E-double-L for me / Oh, I wish we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”
In this song, Wynette does what adults so often do around children: She spells the words she doesn’t want her son to understand. Only she’s not hiding a surprise like C-A-N-D-Y or T-O-Y S-T-O-R-E; she’s hiding more serious things like C-U-S-T-O-D-Y. And Wynette knew what she was talking about when it came to divorces: She had F-O-U-R herself.
Lyrics About the Split: “Momma moved out / Daddy sold the house / They split up their money / And went on their way / And all the king’s horses / And all the king’s men / Couldn’t put mommy and daddy back together again.”
A lot of divorce songs have the children as part of the equation, but in "Starting Over Again," it’s a little different: The children in this song are grown, and the narrative is more about how to start your life over as an adult when you’ve “never been out on your own.” Parton doesn’t offer any easy answers, just a question: Where do you begin?
Lyrics About the Split: “I ride east every other Friday, but if I had it my way / A day would not be wasted on this drive / And I want so bad to hold you / Son, there’s things I haven’t told you / Your mom and me couldn’t get along.”
Songwriter Wyatt Durrette has said that this song was inspired by his own divorce, and the long drives he made to Augusta, Ga., to visit his son. It’s a sad song for certain, but Durrette says that he likes to think of it now as a “love song to my kid to let him know I’ll always be there no matter how far we travel.”
Lyrics About the Split: “As she drives away with every piece of heart I got / I re-convince myself we did the right thing / Every other weekend.”
This duet is another heartbreaker about divorce and children. Chesney and McEntire each sing about the regret they feel dropping their children off every other weekend -- both parents in pain that their kids are getting “half the hugs and kisses.” “I can’t tell her I love her,” Chesney sings, and McEntire echoes, “I can’t tell him I love him” -- but the song ends before they can bring themselves to admit it.
Lyrics About the Split: “There’s her rings, all her things / And her clothes are in the closet / Like she left them when she tore my world apart / As you leave, you’ll see the nursery / Oh, she left me without mercy / Taking nothing but our baby and my heart.”
Jones knew how to write a sad song, and this one is a doozy. The somber ballad walks us through the narrator’s home as he reflects on happier times that have now been soured: “the chair where she’d bring the paper to me” and “the bed where we lay and loved together.” Jones was a great musician, but he would have made a rotten realtor.
Lyrics About the Split: “I took out all the pictures of our wedding day / It was a time of love and laughter / Happy ever after / But even those old pictures have begun to fade / Please tell me she’s not real / And that you’re really coming home to stay.”
Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison (two of the three Dixie Chicks) have said that this song is autobiographical, about their own experience with their parents’ divorce. Considering the intensely personal and painful nature of the song, it’s no surprise that the family generally avoids talking about it.
Lyrics About the Split: “Well, if you’re a married woman and things didn’t seem to work out / Divorce is the key to bein’ loose and free / So you’re gonna be talked about.”
This sharp and controversial-for-its-time classic by Lynn is less about the details of divorce and more about its aftermath -- specifically, about the judgment, double standards and assumptions that divorced women face. Since it seems like “nobody knows where you’re goin’, but they sure know where you’ve been,” a divorced woman can’t “have a male friend” or even trust her best friend’s husband not to be sleazy. Lynn made a career out of pioneering songs about taboo topics like this one.
Lyrics About the Split: “Just give it away / There ain’t nothin’ in this house worth fighting for / Oh, and we’re both tired of fightin’ anyway / So just give it away.”
“Give It Away” is about the moment its narrator realizes that his marriage is over, thanks to his wife insisting that her (soon-to-be-ex-)husband give away the relics of their relationship: pictures from their honeymoon, the king-sized bed, the diamond ring. The narrator keeps everything anyway; the song makes it seem like it’s because of sentimentality and a broken heart, but it could also be for resale value.