On her latest album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope, country veteran Reba McEntire went through hundreds of songs from her history, picking and choosing the ones that touched her heart the most. One of them is the iconic worship tune "Jesus Loves Me," which, in a way, was the first song McEntire was ever paid to perform.
"I was in Cheyenne, Wyo. with my family. We were staying at the Frontier Hotel, and back then they didn't have televisions in the room, so everyone would congregate down in the lobby," she says. "They got my older brother Pake to go up and sing a song to entertain everybody. He sang 'You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog.' One of the cowboys gave him a quarter, and I thought, 'Whoo, I want in on that!' So I got up there and sang 'Jesus Loves Me' ... and I got a nickel."
While McEntire has come a long way from earning a nickel per show, her creative relationships with family and Christianity are as strong as ever. "I Got the Lord on My Side," a song from the new album, even features a co-writing credit from McEntire's own mother.
"The band and I had listened to what we had just recorded and we were making some changes," she explains. "Momma said, 'Can I make a suggestion?' I said, 'Well sure, what?' She said, 'Instead of saying on the second verse, 'I'm so happy,' why don't you say, 'Oh you're happy, you've got the lord on your side?' And I said 'Dangit, why didn't I think of that?'"
Hear the rest of Reba McEntire's interview with NPR's Scott Simon at the audio link.