10 Best ’80s Songs
The '80s brought us some great country songs. The decade was filled with established artists like George Jones and Ronnie Milsap as well as fresh new music from rising stars like the Judds and Randy Travis. In addition, the decade was filled with a great variety of country music sounds, from crossover songs like ‘Islands in the Stream’ to traditional songs like ‘Forever and Ever, Amen.’ We’ve carefully selected our list of the best ‘80s songs.
After placing her first hit on the country charts with ‘Snowbird’ in 1970, Anne Murray was on a slow and steady climb to dominate country and pop radio with a string of crossover middle-of-the-road hits. In 1980, the Canadian songbird gave us one of the most ‘country’ performances of her career. Thanks to its appearance in the hit movie ‘Urban Cowoby,’ ‘Could I Have This Dance’ not only became a No. 1 country hit -- it became one of the most popular wedding songs of all time.
With a long history as a gospel quartet, the Oak Ridge Boys made the switch to country music in 1977 with ‘Ya’ll Come Back Saloon.’ In 1981, they surpassed their own wildest dreams of country music stardom with 'Elvira,' a novelty record written by Dallas Frazier. Inspired by the name of a street (and not a real woman), the Oak Ridge Boys scored a platinum selling single and a Grammy for Vocal Group of the Year. The irresistible singalong is a sure fit on our 10 Best '80s Songs list.
Dan Seals’ voice was all over pop radio stations thanks to a song called ‘I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,’ recorded as England Dan and John Ford Coley. In 1983, Seals went country full-time with hits like ‘God Must Be A Cowboy’ and ‘My Baby’s Got Good Timing.’ The follow-up to his CMA winning collaboration with Marie Osmond, ‘Meet Me In Montana,’ brought his career to the next level. ‘Bop’ hit the top in 1985 and earned a CMA Single of the Year honor. Sadly, Seals passed in 2009 at the age of 61.
The solo hits of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton could have filled up our list of the best ‘80s songs by themselves. From Rogers’ ‘Coward of The County’ and ‘Lady’ to Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ and ‘I Will Always Love You,’ Kenny and Dolly were at the top of their game in this decade. We’ve selected ‘Islands in the Stream’ to best represent their work. The platinum selling single peaked at No. 1 on the country charts, and it also topped the pop charts for two weeks in 1983. Of course, it was probably the most overplayed song on every radio station in the nation during the mid-‘80s.
Every artist and song that appeared on the successful selling ‘Urban Cowboy’ soundtrack got a massive boost in sales and radio airplay. An unknown performer at Gilley’s night club in Texas landed his breakthrough single with the main theme to the movie. ‘Lookin’ for Love’ gave Johnny Lee his first No. 1 hit in 1980 and launched a career of greatest hits that included ‘Pickin’ Up Strangers’ and ‘Cherokee Fiddle.’
Ronnie Milsap was already a superstar by the time the ‘80s rolled around. In 1980, ‘Smoky Mountain Rain’ became his 16th No. 1 Billboard hit. Now, it sits comfortably on our list of the best '80s songs. Named the CMA's Entertainer of the Year in 1977, Milsap ruled the airwaves in the ‘80s with crossover hits like ‘There’s No Getting’ Over Me’ and ‘I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World.’ Combining all charts, the blind piano player has collected over 40 No. 1 singles, and it still amazes us that he is not in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Alabama were known as the supergroup of country music in the ‘80s. They scored the first of 40 No. 1 hits with ‘Tennessee River’ in 1980, and every single they released from 1980 to 1986 went to the top of the chart. The three time CMA Entertainers of the Year won a Grammy for their performance of ‘Mountain Music,’ which best represents their catalog of hits penned by lead vocalist Randy Owen. The song recently enjoyed a comeback, as it's been featured in Brad Paisley’s hit ‘Old Alabama.’
Wynonna and Naomi Judd have one of the best rags to riches stories ever told in the entertainment business. A struggling single mom and her daughter came out of the backwoods of Kentucky and became a headline act, claiming every CMA Vocal Duo of the Year honor from 1985-1991. ‘Mama, He’s Crazy’ and ‘Why Not Me’ were both Grammy winners, but we’ve selected the sentimental classic ‘Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ole Days)’ as one of the best '80s songs. Penned by Jamie O’Hara, the 1986 hit won two Grammys for Song and Vocal Duo Performance of the Year.
Randy Travis was a welcomed and appreciated voice in the mid-‘80s. After the beginning of the decade was dominated by many pop sounding crossover records, the North Carolina native made traditional country music popular again. In 1985, his traditional approach on hits like ‘On the Other Hand’ and ‘Diggin’ Up Bones’ won the hearts of people longing to hear the sound of steel guitar and fiddle again. In 1987, ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ became a Grammy winning Song, while the CMA named it Single of the Year. Nearly every industry award went to Travis during this hot streak of country hits.
Although George Jones had been active for 25 years before this song came along, he finally won his first CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Award in 1980 thanks to ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ Jones was reluctant to record the song -- penned by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam -- because it sounded too depressing. After some convincing and several takes in the studio (as it was recorded during the height of his drug and alcohol addiction), the song became an instant smash. The song was a Grammy winner for Male Vocalist of the Year and the CMA’s Single of the Year, and it was eventually listed as the No. 1 country record of all-time in several national polls.