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The country music legend, 92, died as a result of complications from a stroke. She was perhaps best known for her hit, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”
Sung in a gospel-inflected moan and backed by a crying steel guitar, Ms. Wells’s record spent six weeks at the top of the country charts and crossed over to the pop Top 40. The song’s success not only made her the biggest female country music star of the postwar era; it also persuaded record executives in Nashville to offer recording contracts to other women. (Music labels had until then not thought female singers were worth the investment.)
Ms. Wells went on to become a prototype for generations of female singers, from Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to Iris DeMent. The renowned song publisher Fred Rose anointed her the Queen of Country Music.
Fellow country music stars took to Twitter to pay their respects:
Kitty Wells will always be greatest female country singer of all times. She was my hero. If i had never heard of… http://t.co/TuZzToY2
— Loretta Lynn (@The_LorettaLynn) July 16, 2012
My heart cries over the loss of Ms Kitty Wells. She is and always will be the true Queen of Country Music.
— kellie pickler (@kelliepickler) July 16, 2012
A Queen died today. The true Queen of country music,the lady who set the standard for all who followed . Rest in peace Kitty Wells
— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) July 16, 2012
— Grand Ole Opry (@opry) July 16, 2012
Just heard the sad news that Kitty Wells passed away. Praying for her family. She is a legend and the "Queen of Country Music".
— Julie Roberts (@TheJulieRoberts) July 16, 2012
Sad to hear of the passing of the Queen of Country, Kitty Wells.
— Martina McBride (@martinamcbride) July 16, 2012
Rest In Peace Kitty Wells. The Queen of Country Music. What a great lady.
— Chely Wright (@chelywright) July 16, 2012
Rest in peace Kitty Wells. Thank you for paving the way for so many great women we have in country music today!
— Skylar Laine (@Skylar_Laine) July 16, 2012
Wells had a lot of fans in the Twitterverse, as evidenced by the outpouring of tributes.
RIP Kitty Wells, the lady who paved the way for other women to become country & western superstars too.
— Len Bowcott (@lenbowcott) July 16, 2012
Nashville has lost another legend. Country Queen Kitty Wells ("It wasn't god who made honky tonk angels") has passed on. RIP
— Matthew Grant (@TheMatthewGrant) July 16, 2012
I couldn't do what I do today…without Kitty Wells doing what she loved to do first. Many thanks to a legend for paving that road. #HTAngel
— heather morgan (@heathereleven) July 16, 2012
Rest in peace Kitty Wells… aka The Queen of Country Music. You will forever be the queen.
— Vanessa Gavia (@iamvanessagavia) July 16, 2012
RIP Kitty Wells. Thank you for your music.
— Jonny Two Bags (@JonnyTwoBags) July 16, 2012
Heartbroken to hear about Kitty Wells. Such a legendary trailblazer in country music with a strong story. RIP
— Theodora (@TheoAirplane) July 16, 2012
Rest in peace sweet Kitty Wells.
— Courtney Cummins (@Music_Soothes) July 16, 2012