Top 10 Cheating Songs
The best cheating songs feel like they were written and recorded just moments after the dastardly deed was done. Tracks by Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and more come drenched in pain and anger. At times, you want to wrap each tearful singer up in a big, comforting hug. Other times, you want to get out of the room, because an ugly storm is brewing.
Like love, death and taxes, cheating is a fact of life that the best country singers don’t avoid. These 10 songs about infidelity and romantic misdeeds are among the most popular in country music history. They’ve persevered through the decades, because even with the arrival of texting, tweeting and email, the seed of dark emotion that sprouts when one is wronged is timeless.
‘Does He Love You’
Reba McEntire may be the most prolific cheating song singer of all time, with three tracks that many consider to be the best in the category. ‘Whoever’s in New England’ and ‘The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia’ were both hits, but this No. 1 duet with Linda Davis was chosen for this list, as it stands out as one of very few to present both sides of the cheating equation — that of the wife and the mistress. It’s packed full of drama and painful emotion, and it made for a great music video.
‘Wish I Didn’t Know Now’
Normally known for his bravado, Toby Keith turns in his most sensitive performance on this hit from 1994. ‘Wish I Didn’t Know Now’ is sung from the perspective of a man who has just found out his wife or girlfriend has cheated on him. “I’ve always said what I don’t know / Couldn’t hurt as bad as leavin’ you / Turns out I knew what I was thinkin’ / It ain’t an easy thing to do.” Keith sings. Later in the song, he walks away from his love. It’s a painful scene so many can relate to.
‘Long Black Veil’
Lefty Frizzell first recorded ‘Long Black Veil,’ but the most popular version might be by Johnny Cash. Over the years, dozens of artists (country and non) have re-cut this song about taking the secret of disloyalty to the grave. It’s a haunting story full of dark imagery. It also made our list of the Top 100 Country Songs of all time.
‘She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)’
Gary Stewart’s ‘She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)’ was his only No. 1 hit, but the song about a cheating wife has persevered through popular covers by artists like Brooks and Dunn and others. How’s this for an honest lyric: “I’m not weak, I tell myself / I stay because I’m strong / The truth is I’m not man enough / To stop her from doing me wrong.” Stewart’s voice gives a glimpse of optimism that one recognizes as foolishness by the end.
‘Blame It on Your Heart’
While the first four songs on this list of cheating songs were sad, lonesome ballads, Patty Loveless’s uptempo hit from 1993 is from the perspective of a woman scorned. The singer holds nothing back in dressing down the dirtbag who did her wrong. “Hey, blame it on your lying, cheating, cold, dead-beating, two-timing, double-dealing, mean, mistreating loving heart,” she sings with fury during the chorus. Could it be said any better?
‘The Thunder Rolls’
Even without the chilling third verse, Garth Brooks‘ 1991 hit is one of the best cheating songs of all time. ‘The Thunder Rolls’ is one of the singer’s finest lyrical efforts. Every note of this song adds to the tension that’s only lifted when the wife catches a whiff of strange perfume on her husband’s collar. “And the lighting flashes in her eyes / And he knows that she knows / And the thunder rolls,” Brooks sings in the edited version released to radio. There’s no doubt this song scared a few men into behaving.
‘Before He Cheats’
Carrie Underwood takes Patty Loveless’ hit ‘Blame It on Your Heart’ a few steps (and baseball bat swings) further. She’s angry, but instead of giving her man a verbal lashing, she gets physical. Yes, her single may have inspired women to do the same with their own Louisville sluggers, but for the most part, fans understood that Underwood’s actions would result in jail time. One wonders who made the singer angry enough to turn in such a fiery performance… Or is she just that good of an actress?
The top three songs on this list of the best cheating songs have raw vulnerability in common. Dolly Parton is a woman begging ‘Jolene’ not to take her man. Her character is almost pitiful; the antithesis of the strong woman Parton is in real life. “Your smile is like a breath of spring / Your voice is soft like summer rain / I cannot compete with you Jolene,” Parton sings. It’s a total original that has not been replicated in the decades since.
‘Stay’ is Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland’s career performance. She’s never revealed if she had someone specific on her mind while recording this song. For the first two verses, her pleading is similar to that of Parton’s in ‘Jolene’ — although this time she’s the other woman, not the wife. Finally, during an spellbinding final verse, Nettles finds the strength to stand up and rid herself of this manipulative lover. ‘Stay’ will be giving country fans goosebumps for decades to come.
‘Your Cheating Heart’
Hank Williams‘ ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ inspired every cheating song on this list. It was the original great cheating song, and even after 60-plus years, it still holds up alongside more contemporary weepers. “When tears come down like falling rain / You’ll toss around and call my name,” Williams sings. “Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.” Simple, painful lyrics, sung by a man as capable of bearing his broken soul as any that would come after him.