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Mindy McCready
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Mindy McCready

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Mindy McCready was best known for her hit country music album 'Ten Thousand Angels,' as well as for her ongoing personal struggles. At the age of 37, she was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Who Was Mindy McCready?

Mindy McCready was a country music singer whose success was overshadowed by her personal struggles. Although her 1996 debut album Ten Thousand Angels was a hit, McCready struggled to stay at the top of the charts and she was dubbed "the Amy Winehouse of country music" for her struggles with mental health and alcohol abuse. At the age of 37, McCready was found dead at her home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Early Life

Mindy McCready was born Malinda Gayle McCready on November 30, 1975, in Fort Myers, Florida. McCready began singing at the age of 3 in her local Pentecostal church. At age 9, she began training for the opera with a retired Juilliard professor but later decided that she preferred the kind of country singing she'd learned from karaoke tapes of Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire.

"I liked Madonna and Michael Jackson," she later said, "and I was the karaoke queen of my hometown. It was that Garth Brooks-Trisha Yearwood time, and Trisha had just sung 'She's In Love With The Boy.' I fell in love with it; it's so much about what I was doing and how I was growing up. So when I decided to pursue singing professionally, I wanted to sing country."

Country Music Career

After graduating early from high school, McCready moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she signed her first recording contract at age 17. Her first album with BNA Records, Ten Thousand Angels, was released in 1996 and spawned four hit singles, including the chart-topping "Guys Do It All the Time." The album was certified double platinum and soon McCready was headlining concerts alongside country music legends like George Strait and Tim McGraw.

Her songs were notable for their strong female voice and empowering lyrics. She said, "All my songs are tunes that women will want to listen to and say, 'Yes, sister!' They're not traditionally country, in the sense that they have images of dogs in trucks or submissive women. If the women aren't equal to the men, the songs aren't there for me. 'Stand By Your Man' is not the Mindy McCready way. No way. If he's not a good guy, I'm not standing by him!"

McCready followed her smash debut with 1997's If I Don't Stay the Night, which was certified gold, and 1999's I'm Not So Tough, which did not sell well. When BNA dropped her third record, McCready signed with Capitol Records and released her 2002 album Mindy McCready. The album again proved commercially disappointing and McCready was also dropped from Capitol.

Personal Struggles

Lagging record sales were the least of McCready's troubles. In August 2004, McCready was arrested for using fake prescriptions to obtain the narcotic painkiller OxyContin. McCready initially disputed the charges, but later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a $4,000 fine and three years probation. In May 2005, she was arrested again, charged this time for driving under the influence for driving with a suspended license.

That same month, McCready's on-again-off-again boyfriend Billy McKnight was arrested and accused of attempted murder after severely beating and choking her. McCready later said that this was not the first time he had attacked her. The state of Tennessee issued restraining orders against both McKnight and McCready: McKnight was not allowed to enter the state, and McCready was not allowed to leave it. But McCready soon violated her restraining order by visiting McKnight in Florida.

In July 2005, McCready was charged in Arizona with identity theft, unlawful use of transportation, unlawful imprisonment and hindering prosecution, all of which she attributed to being taken in by a con artist. Two months later, the troubled singer was found unconscious in a hotel lobby in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, following an attempted suicide. In September 2005, she was hospitalized again for a second attempted suicide by antidepressant overdose.

After surviving two self-inflicted brushes with death, McCready credited McKnight with saving her life. "I loved him," she said. "I just loved him. I missed him terribly even though he did terrible things to me. The relationship was very tumultuous. It's amazing how you can forget such terrible things so easily, you know, even when they're still fresh in your mind and try to only remember the good things. And, even though he did the things he did, I still missed him and wanted to see him. So, I went down to visit him and, of course, we ended up, you know, having sex and I got pregnant and I tried to commit suicide."

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In November 2005, McCready wrote and released the song "Black and Blue," donating the proceeds to Women Against Domestic Violence. McCready's son Zander Ryan McCready was born on March 25, 2006.

McCready's legal troubles continued to mount. She was sentenced to a year of jail in September 2007 for violating the terms of her earlier probation but was released just three months later. In 2008, she was jailed once again for violating probation, though she was released after 30 days for good behavior.

Roger Clemens Affair and Continued Struggles

In April 2008, the New York Daily News reported a long-term affair between McCready and married baseball player Roger Clemens. McCready confirmed the affair, saying that she and Clemens first met when she was 16 and their relationship lasted for over a decade. That year she also released a new single, "I'm Still Here," her first in six years.

In 2010, McCready was featured on the third season of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. She quarreled frequently with fellow housemate Kari Ann Pineche. While on the show, McCready discovered she had undiagnosed brain damage as a result of her beatings from McKnight. Her fifth studio album, I'm Still Here, was released on March 23, 2010.

In April 2010, a sex tape depicting McCready with a previous boyfriend was released. A month later, she was hospitalized in Florida for a potential overdose after a judge refused to grant her an emergency order to regain custody of her son from her mother.

McCready's life in the spotlight was difficult for the troubled singer and she had hoped her public struggles might help others. "I have been through so much humiliation," she said. "So much embarrassment. So many things people think they knew about, whether they were true or not. It wasn't hard for me to put myself out there. I've always been honest. I never really think that looking back at your mistakes is more important than your triumphs… Maybe by me telling you how I lived through it, maybe I can save somebody else out there from having to suffer the way that I did."

On April 9, 2012, McCready gave birth to her second son Zayne with music producer David Wilson. "Zayne is truly a blessing and a joy," the singer told US Weekly. "It was a long and trying pregnancy; we're so happy he's here. There are no words to convey how happy we are."

Tragic Death

However, less than a year after the birth of her son, Zayne, McCready suffered another tragedy. On January 13, 2013, Wilson, McCready's boyfriend of two years, died after allegedly committing suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

After his death, which became the subject of an ongoing investigation, McCready released a statement: "David was my soulmate; he was a caregiver and guiding hand to our sons, Zander and Zayne. He was a precious gift from God to all of us and, yesterday, he returned home and is now with his mother and father. David loved and he was loved. Those who knew and loved him will miss him; those who did not know David missed the opportunity to know a truly loving and gifted man."

Three weeks later, after family members expressed concern for McCready's well-being, a judge ordered her to be evaluated at a treatment facility for mental health and alcohol abuse. McCready's children were removed from her care by the Department of Human Services.

But the singer couldn't be saved from a tragic end. On February 17, 2013, just five weeks after her boyfriend's death, McCready was found dead on the porch of her home in the rural town of Heber Springs, Arkansas, the result of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 37 years old.

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