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History doesn't just happen - people make it. The same is certainly true in country music. One star's sound, personality, style, attitude or convictions can start a movement, rearrange the musical map or even influence the way we understand the world.Here are some of the 10 stars who, above anyone else, led the way and set the standards over the 10 years since Country Weekly's first issue in 1994.
In the mid-'90s, when Toby was with a label that resisted his desire to get a little edgier with his music, he decided to stick to his guns, do the music he wanted to and find another record company that would let him do it.
And that's exactly what he did. His 1993 hit, "Should've Been a Cowboy," was cited by Billboard magazine as the most radio-played song of the '90s. And more recently, Toby's been tearing up the charts and solidifying his status as the most successful country artist of the new century - a title he recently earned from United Stations Radio Networks. And he's done it by staying true to one simple premise: knowing what his audience wants and delivering it.
The results? He's had 12 Billboard No. 1s (mostly self-penned) and sold close to 15 million albums. He's also struck a chord with his heartfelt patriotic songs, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" and his current Top 10, "American Soldier." His Shock'N Y'all Tour was one of country's most successful ever, and Toby was recognized by Billboard magazine as the No. 1 Male Country Artist and No. 1 Country Singles & Tracks writer for 2003.
He's also won American Music Awards, ACMs and Flameworthy awards, among others. Not bad for someone who's just giving the people what they want.
"I had to work hard to get here," declares Toby, "And I'm planning to stick around for a long time."
Of all the superstars in country music, Shania Twain has come the farthest. From her impoverished beginnings in northern Ontario, Canada, she skyrocketed to international success in the mid-'90s, with scores of hits, armfuls of awards (including Entertainer of the Year honors from the CMA and ACM) and a position as the best-selling female country artist of all time.
What's more, she is the only artist in the history of recorded music to have three consecutive albums - The Woman in Me, Come on Over and her latest, Up! - sell more than 10 million copies each. But even that distinction pales next to the fact that Come on Over has sold over 35 million copies worldwide - and is the best-selling female solo album, the best-selling country album and one of the five top-selling albums in history!
Her beauty and sex appeal have captivated not only the world, but also Revlon cosmetics, which selected her as a national spokesperson. Shania also caught the eye of Hollywood networks, who have spotlighted her in national TV specials.
Not bad for a girl who once worked swinging an ax with her stepfather on a reforestation crew in the Canadian bush!
While Shania landed her record deal in large part because of her original material, her self-titled debut album in 1993 featured only one of her songs. But that changed after she met a long-distance admirer named Robert John "Mutt" Lange, a successful rock producer who loved her voice and her original songs.
He soon became her biggest supporter and later her husband. Living today in Switzerland with their son, Eja, the power couple has written, produced and recorded songs that have taken Shania's career into the stratosphere. And they've done it their way, with a style that's instantly identifiable and universally appealing.
To read more about the 10 Most Influential Stars of the Past 10 Years , pick up the latest issue of Country Weekly Magazine!