Reba McEntire may be known as the Queen of Country Music, but she has also endured her fair share of sadness and grief.
The talented musician has used music to cope with the huge losses she experienced in her life, one of them being the loss of her mother Jacqueline.
Recently, she opened up about this, sharing how she considered quitting music following Jacqueline’s passing from cancer in March 2020.
McEntire, aged 68, recounted a moment when she and her sister Susie were going through their parents’ belongings after Jacqueline’s death. It was during this introspective period that she contemplated her future as a singer.
She recalled: “I was going through pictures. I said, ‘I just don’t think I’m gonna do this anymore.’ She said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Sing,’” she explained. “I said, ‘I always did it for Mama.’ She said, ‘Oh, you’ll get it back.’ I did.”
Reba McEntire and her mother Jacqueline Smith in Phoenix, Arizona, 2016. Credit / Michael Tran / FilmMagic / Getty.
Reba McEntire’s band was involved in a plane accident
Though, long before her beloved mother died, McEntire suffered the greatest tragedy imaginable 32 years ago when she lost several of her band members in a terrifying aircraft accident.
Guitarist Chris Austin, singer Paula Kaye Evans, bassist Terry Jackson, bandleader Kirk Cappello, guitarist Michael Thomas, drummer Tony Saputo, keyboardist Joey Cigainero, and tour manager Jim Hammon as well as the two pilots Donald Holms and Chris Hollinger, all died.
The incident occurred after McEntire and her band performed at a San Diego event on March 16, 1991. Afterwards, the group was meant to fly to Fort Wayne, Indiana, from Brown Field Municipal Airport for another show.
At the time, McEntire, her manager and ex-husband Narvel Blackstock, and her stylist Sandi Spika stayed behind in San Diego to rest, while the rest of the band and the tour manager got on the first flight.
Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock pictured in New York in 1993. Credit / Steve Eichner / Getty.
In 2012, McEntire opened up to Oprah Winfrey about the traumatic turn of events, recounting how it all happened. She recalled how the first plane carrying her band members and tour manager crashed just ten miles away from the airport.
“Everyone in the plane died when the wing of the plane struck a boulder on the edge of Otay Mountain. Narvel [Blackstock] approached our pilot and informed him of the situation as soon as we received the news,” she said.
Later that same evening, Blackstock went back to the hotel room where McEntire was waiting. She inquired about her friends, asking: “Are they okay?” She then told Oprah that Blackstock had replied: “I don’t think so.”
Even after 20 years, McEntire said that the pain never truly goes away.
Reba McEntire performs in Nashville, Tennessee, 1990. Credit / Beth Gwinn / Getty.
How Reba McEntire dealt with grief
It was during this emotional period that McEntire found solace in her close friendships with other musicians, like Dolly Parton and Vince Gill. They even offered up their own bands for McEntire, so that she could complete her tour, but she kindly declined.
Instead, McEntire’s main focus was writing and recording her album, For My Broken Heart, something she chose to create in memory of her deceased band members.
For My Broken Heart ended up capturing the hearts of her fans, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and selling a whopping four million copies.
Reba McEntire remembers her band members
On the anniversary of the devastating plane crash, McEntire honors her late bandmates, often taking to social media to commemorate their passing and asking for prayers from fans.
In 2016, on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, McEntire headed to San Diego, posting a heartfelt tribute to her Instagram.
“Today is the 25th anniversary of the plane crash,” she wrote in a touching post. “In November, I flew to the scene of the tragic collision after arriving back in San Diego. I couldn’t help but feel that those who have passed on are aware of how much we miss them. For all the families and friends impacted by this tragedy, please accept my heartfelt condolences and sincere prayers.”
This is so heartbreaking, but we are sending out our thoughts and prayers to Reba McEntire, as well as the families of the deceased.