The Real Reason You Don't Hear From Barbara Mandrell Anymore

When you think of the most iconic female country stars ever, who immediately springs to mind? The likes of Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Reba McEntire probably come to you at first, but what about Barbara Mandrell? Twice crowned Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards (via Taste of Country) and winner of two Grammys, Mandrell was one of the most successful country artists out there in the '70s and '80s. 

However, she retired in 1997 at the age of just 48 after a performance at the Grand Ole Opry House, and duly retreated from the public eye. In the years since, she's rarely made the news, or any public appearances in relation to her music career, instead gardening, painting, and spending time with her family and pets (via CBN). Why would such a successful star suddenly retire and step away from fame? Here's the real reason you don't hear from Barbara Mandrell anymore.

Barbara Mandrell was in a car crash in 1984

In the early '80s, Barbara Mandrell must have felt as if the world was at her feet. She was winning awards left and right as a wildly successful country crossover star, and had even made the foray into television, alongside her singing career.  However, she found herself in the middle of a tragedy in 1984, around the peak of her popularity. On September 11 of that year, she was involved in a serious car crash in which the driver of the other car died. 

Mandrell herself suffered a leg fracture, a concussion, and other injuries, while two of her children were also in the car with her and were injured (via The New York Times). She spent a year and a half recovering before Mandrell was able to return to music, and since the crash has become a committed advocate for the use of seatbelts — while her children were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, the family didn't use them regularly (via the Chicago Tribune).

According to the police report from the incident, the other driver — 19-year-old Mark White — had crossed the centerline of the road, therefore causing the collision, but Mandrell and her husband Ken Dudney experienced backlash from fans when they sued White's family for $10.3 million in damages, despite their lawyer then explaining that they had to sue in order to get money from the insurance company (via UPI). 

Barbara Mandrell retired from music in 1997

Despite that turbulent point in the mid-'80s, Barbara Mandrell was able to revive her career up to a point. Throughout the rest of the decade, she rose to the upper echelons of the U.S. country music chart. In addition, her 1990 biography "Get to the Heart: My Story" was a smash hit, becoming a New York Times bestseller for over three months before being made into a successful CBS movie in 1997 (via Variety). However, that same year, Mandrell retired after a performance at the Grand Ole Opry (via K-Law). 

According to Taste of Country, the reason for her stepping away was simply a desire to spend more time with her family, including her high school-aged son. Even selling her instruments, she's seldom made any appearances since — instead spending time at home with her family. That said, she still appeared in "Sunset Beach" in her regular role as Alex Mitchum through to 1998, even after Mandrell's final concert performance (via IMDb).

It doesn't look like we'll see much more from Mandrell in the future. Now in her seventies, she's rarely been active since the turn of the century and appears content with a life away from the limelight.

Barbara Mandrell's musical legacy continues

Though Barbara Mandrell may have retired from actively performing and making music, her musical legacy lives on. In 2009, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (via ​​NWTN Today). Superstars including Reba McEntire and Michael McDonald, as well as Barbara's sister, Louise, performed tribute songs to her while Mandrell thanked her father, Irby, for helping catapult her career. Irby died just two months before the ceremony at the age of 84 (via Los Angeles Times). 

"Irby Mandrell was my manager as well as my Daddy over my 38-year career. He taught me, guided me, and directed me," said the country singer. "It is his name, Mandrell, that I am blessed to have, and it's the gracious loving public and fans that made our name known and popular. So tonight I thank you with my entire being for putting the Mandrell name into the Hall of Fame."

In 2020, producer and DJ Dave Aude, who has worked with stars like Rihanna and Beyoncé, remixed the first number-one country song that Mandrell had back in 1978, "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" (via Rolling Stone). Mandrell loved the final product, saying, "Oh my gosh, I was thrilled. The arrangement and the beat really throw down, and that's what makes me happy." 

Barbara Mandell made a rare public appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in 2022

On July 30, 2022, almost three decades after retiring, living legend Barbara Mandrell made her triumphant return to the Grand Ole Opry stage, in Nashville, to celebrate her 50th anniversary with the country music Mecca. USA Today confirms that Mandrell is currently their 10th-oldest active inducted member, with the singer-songwriter sharing, "The Grand Ole Opry feels comfortable and is home." She also described her 1972 induction, at the age of just 23, into its hallowed halls as "one of the proudest moments of her career." 

As for country music's sometimes dodgy reputation, Mandrell refuses to be shamed by it, reaffirming her lifelong love of the genre once again. Carrie Underwood, who performed on the night as part of the all-female lineup, told the gathered crowd that she wouldn't be where she is today without Mandrell. "She has been such an inspiration to me and so many others that stand on the shoulders of great female artists like her," Underwood enthused. Mandrell notably watched her soundcheck, showing her support in kind.

The country star later thanked everyone on Instagram, posting photos from the night and gushing, "Whether you were there in person or watching from home, I felt so much love from each of you and I wish you could know how you made me feel," adding, "Thank you to the @opry for celebrating me and welcoming me home. Lord knows I love the Opry!"