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Mississippi Legends: Faith Hill

By: Susan Marquez, Magnolia Tribune

It’s just a blip on Highway 49. The little green sign in Rankin County that tells motorists they are passing Star, Mississippi is mostly missed by those driving by. 

The town is small, but it claims a few notable people who have made a big difference in the world. One is someone you can thank for your comfortable office chair. Niels Diffrient, an industrial designer, was born in a farmhouse in Star in 1928. His career focused on ergonomic seating. His most well-known designs are the Freedom and Liberty chairs manufactured by Humanscale.

Star was also the birthplace of Silas Edward “Si” Corley, the fourth Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, from 1940 to 1968. His focus was on selling Mississippi to Mississippians, a legacy that would affect Mississippians for generations.

But it was the beautiful voice of country singer Faith Hill that put Star, Mississippi on the map. 

In September 1967, Edna and Ted Perry adopted a baby girl who was born that same month in Ridgeland. They named her Audrey Faith Perry and took her home to Star, twenty miles southeast of Jackson. Faith, as they called her, was raised with the Perry’s two biological sons. 

Faith’s beautiful singing voice was recognized early on. She was first exposed to singing at Star Baptist Church. By the time she was seven, she had her first public appearance, singing at a 4-H luncheon. In August 1976, just before she turned nine, Faith attended an Elvis Presley concert at the Mississippi Coliseum. She was very impressed, and surely inspired, by what she witnessed there. 

As a teenager, Faith was a member of the Steele Family Gospel quartet. The group performed at area churches. When she was 17, Faith formed her own band that played the local rodeo circuit. 

After graduating from McLaurin Attendance Center in 1986, Faith attended Hinds Junior College (now Hinds Community College) in Raymond. While there, she sometimes sang for prisoners at the Hinds County Jail. 

Knowing she wanted to pursue singing as a career, Faith dropped out of college at 19 and moved to Nashville. She auditioned to be a backup singer for Reba McEntire, but she didn’t get the job. In 1991, the singer who did get the gig was killed in a plane crash with six other members of McEntire’s band.

Like many who move to Nashville to pursue their music dreams, Faith had a series of jobs before she found her footing. From selling t-shirts to working at a local McDonald’s, she made her way with odd jobs before landing a secretary job at a music publishing firm. While there, she met and married music publishing executive Daniel Hill. 

Faith was “discovered” at the publishing company where she worked when a co-worker heard her singing to herself one day. Soon the head of the company encouraged her to become a demo singer. Faith also had a side gig singing backup vocals for songwriter Gary Burr, who performed his new songs at Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe. She was at the right place at the right time. Faith was singing when Martha Sharp, an executive with Warner Brothers Records came in. Impressed with Faith’s voice, Sharp signed Faith to a record deal. 

Her first album, Take Me as I Am, was released in 1993. Shortly after that, Faith and Daniel Hill divorced, but she kept his name. Her next album, It Matters to Me, was released in 1995. Both albums were successful, with three number one hits on Billboard’s country charts. Faith Hill had arrived as one of country music’s top stars.

In 1996 Faith married a Louisiana native Tim McGraw, who was a star in his own right. They met at a New Faces in Nashville show in 1994, and got married at Tim’s aunt’s home in Los Angeles. 

With her next two albums, Faith (1998) and Breathe (1999), Faith became a crossover success. “This Kiss” became an international hit while Breathe became one of the best-selling country music albums, with the title track also becoming a huge crossover success. Breathe earned three GRAMMY awards. 

More albums followed, Cry (2002) and Fireflies (2005) were both commercial successes, and the cover song on Cry became another crossover single and won a GRAMMY. Singles from Fireflies, “Mississippi Girl” and “Like We Never Loved at All” earned more GRAMMY awards for the singer.

In all, Faith has won five GRAMMY awards, 15 Academy of Country Music awards, and six American Music Awards. Her 2006 Soul2Soul II Tour with husband Tim McGraw was one of the highest-grossing tours of all time. She and McGraw have recorded several duets. 

Singing isn’t the only talent Faith Hill has. She easily stepped into the role of actor starting in 1997 when she starred in three episodes of the popular television series Touched by an Angel. She also acted in the spin off series, Promised Land.

She made her film debut in 2004 when she co-starred in Frank Oz’s remake of The Stepford Wives. Other cast members included Hollywood royalty Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, and Glenn Close. The film earned over $100 million. 

Other films followed, as well as a stint as executive producers for a lifestyle program, Pickler & Ben, featuring Kellie Pickler and Ben Aaron as hosts. The show was filmed in Nashville. 

Perhaps her biggest role is in Paramount+’s Yellowstone prequel, 1883

Faith Hill’s career was recognized with a star on Nashville’s Walk of Fame in 2016 and on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019. 

Mississippi is said to be the most philanthropic state in the country, and true to her Mississippi roots, Faith has given back in numerous ways, from literacy projects in honor of her father, to raising money for disaster relief.

In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, both Faith and her husband, Tim McGraw, joined groups to take supplies to Gulfport. They also hosted several charity concerts to help those who were displaced.

Later that year, they founded the Neighbor’s Keeper Foundation with a mission of providing funding for community charities to assist with basic services in the event of a natural disaster.

Faith and McGraw have three daughters, Gracie (27), Maggie (26), and Audrey (23). The family lives on a 600-acre horse farm outside of Nashville.

But back in Star, at the corner of Main and Mangum Streets, a Mississippi Country Music Trail marker reminds folks that Faith Hill made it big as both a singer and as “an effective advocate for the culture and people of Mississippi on a national stage.”


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