THEN AND NOW: The most iconic country stars of all time

Jon Kopaloff/Michael Loccisano/GettyReba McEntire has been in the spotlight for years.
  • Country music has been around for years.
  • Many country icons like Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney are still creating music today.
  • Many country stars like Keith Urban and Blake Shelton have gone on to be judges on popular TV shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol.”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Country music has one of the strongest followings of all genres, and it’s country music stars like these that keep fans loyal and hopeful for more.

We’re taking a look back at where some of country music’s most notable stars started and where they are now.


Dolly Parton has become a country icon.

AP Images/Michael Loccisano/GettyDolly Parton in the ’70s and in 2017.

From a girl who grew up on a farm to a household name in country music, Dolly Parton is now quite a country icon.

She made her debut in the ’60s, and has since made countless hits, won many awards, and opened her own theme park called Dollywood.

Recently, she was on the receiving end of a special tribute at the 2019 Grammy Awards.


Luke Bryan went from working at a peanut plant to selling out stadiums.

Bryan worked at a family-owned peanut plant during the day and played gigs at night for years before taking the country music scene by storm. Before he was singing chart-toppers, Bryan actually wrote hits for fellow artists. He released his debut album in 2007.

Since then, he has sold out countless arenas, has released multiple chart-topping hits, and has acted as a judge on “American Idol.”


Blake Shelton went from songwriter to TV judge.

Mark Humphrey/Charles Sykes/GettyShelton in 2007 and 2017.

The songwriter-turned-singer began his rise to popularity when he was just 17 years old. Born in Oklahoma, Blake Shelton’s first number-one hit song “Austin” was released nearly 20 years ago.

Since then, he has been named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2017 and has served as a coach and judge on “The Voice.”

Currently, he is dating fellow judge on “The Voice” Gwen Stefani and the two have even released music together, including the holiday song “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.”


The Dixie Chicks are now iconic.

Ezra Shaw/Kevin Winter/GettyThe Dixie Chicks in 2003 and 2014.

Although they have had a few different members in the past, for years, the Dixie Chicks has been comprised of Martie Maguire, Emily Robison, and Natalie Maines. The group had numerous hits throughout the ’90s and early 2000s.

Although Dixie Chicks hasn’t released new music in a while, the band still occasionally goes on tour with other headliners.


Carrie Underwood won “American Idol” and shot up to superstardom.

Jason Merritt/Getty/Scott Gries/GettyCarrie Underwood in 2006 and 2018.

Carrie Underwood made her entrance onto the country music scene in 2005 as the winner of “American Idol.” She released her debut album “Some Hearts” that same year.

Since then, she’s had many multi-platinum albums and has won countless awards. She also received a Grand Ole Opry induction award. The singer is now married to ice-hockey pro Mike Fisher and they have two kids.


Rascal Flatts is still putting out music.

Frank Micelotta/Mike Coppola/GettyRascal Flatts at the CMA’s in 2004 and 2018.

When Rascal Flatts first entered the country music scene, they were sporting frosted tips and wearing camouflage and leather on the regular. Their first album debuted in 2000, nearly 20 years ago.

With 16 number-one hits and over 23 million records sold, Rascal Flatts has continued to rise in fame over the past few years. This summer, they’re embarking on a tour around the US.


Keith Urban has been making music for decades.

Jason Kirk/Dia Dipasupil/GettyKeith Urban in 2001 and 2018.

Urban is a native of New Zealand who was raised in Australia and he released his debut album in 1999.

He began his climb to success in country music in the early ’90s and since then he has won many awards, has released several chart-topping songs, and has acted as a judge on both “American Idol” and Australia’s “The Voice.”


Taylor Swift went from country queen to pop icon.

Evan Agostini/Larry Busaca/GettyTaylor Swift in 2007 and 2015.

Taylor Swift landed in the country music scene at just 16 years old and she took the music world by storm with her catchy love songs.

Today, her look has changed quite a bit, her success has grown tremendously, and her sound has entered the pop-genre territory. In 2014 and 2017, she released the chart-topping pop albums, “1989” and “Reputation,” respectively.


Dierks Bentley started out making bluegrass music.

Frederick M. Brown/Michael Loccisano/GettyDierks Bentley in 2004 and 2018.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Bentley worked as a researcher for Spike TV before becoming a country-music star. He initially performed bluegrass music before he began tapping into the country music scene.

He’s now an award-winning country star and, this summer, he will be performing on his “Burning Man” tour.


Tim McGraw has been creating country music for years.

Lawrence Lucier/Larry Busacca/GettyTim McGraw in 2002 and 2016.

Tim McGraw began topping country-music charts in the early ’90s. He released his debut album, “Tim McGraw”in 1993.

Now, he’s married to fellow country-music legend Faith Hill and he is still releasing chart-toppers. Recently, he and his wife kicked off a world tour.


Faith Hill moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a singing career when she was 19.

The songstress released her first album “Take Me As I Am” in 1993. The debut album featured the chart-topping singles “Wild One” and “Piece of My Heart.” She continued to dominate the ’90s and early 2000s with songs like “This Kiss,” “Breathe,” and “Cry.”

Since then, she’s taken home five Grammy Awards and 15 ACM Awards and continues to be one of the most popular country artists, alongside husband Tim McGraw.


Darius Rucker has had solo hits and hits with a band.

Evan Agostini/Rick Diamond/GettyDarius Rucker in 2004 and 2018.

From lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish in the ’80s to present-day solo country music star, Darius Rucker has been in the public eye for over 30 years. With hits like “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Wagon Wheel,” his solo career was quite successful.

Recently, Rucker reunited with Hootie & the Blowfish and the band is expected to embark on a tour this year.


Kenny Chesney has built up a huge following.

Vince Bucci/Michael Loccisano/GettyKenny Chesney in 2004 and 2016.

Kenny Chesney began playing music when he joined a band in college while pursuing a degree at East Tennessee State University. He signed his first record deal in 1993 and then released his debut album in 1994.

Since then, he’s been the recipient of countless awards, including entertainer of the year. He also recently kicked off another tour around the US.


Reba McEntire remains wildly popular.

Jon Kopaloff/Michael Loccisano/GettyReba McEntire in 2002 and 2017.

The Encyclopedia Britannica lists Reba McEntire as “one of the most popular female country vocal artists of the late 20th century.” According to the site, McEntire began pursuing music in the ninth grade when she formed a band with her siblings.

Over the years, McEntire has built an admirable career both in music and television. She even starred as the titular character in her hit show “Reba” for years.

She is also one of few performers to ever receive the National Artistic Achievement Award.And, in 2018, she became Kentucky Fried Chicken’s first female Colonel Sanders.


Shania Twain has become the best-selling female artist in country music history.

Despite her first album not getting much attention, Shania Twain has broken a slew of records throughout her career. She became the first female recording artist to have two consecutive albums break the 10 million mark in copies sold with “The Woman In Me” (1995) and “Come On Over” (1997).

She took a 15-year hiatus from the industry and released her fifth studio album “Now” in 2017.

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