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Throw on your jeans, shine up your boots, and grab yourself a cold one. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 country songs of all time.
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#10: “Friends in Low Places” (1990) Garth Brooks
First recorded as a demo, “Friends in Low Places” launched Garth Brooks into the country stratosphere when it was re-recorded for his sophomore effort in the early 1990s. With the Billboard country chart-topper, Brooks soon became the face of country music. While the raucous tune is already a rowdy, beer filled number, the singer typically adds a more angst-driven third verse during live performances.
#9: “Always on My Mind” (1982) Willie Nelson
Though it was previously recorded by artists like Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley, Willie and his battered guitar Trigger proved the oldie was still a goodie a decade later. The Redheaded Stranger didn’t only net three Grammys for his cover, but also earned a top five spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and eclipsed his top 20 1980 single “On the Road Again.” All in all, not bad for a song that took original songwriter Wayne Carson a mere 10 minutes to write.
#8: “The Gambler” (1978) Kenny Rogers
Full of standard country music motifs like trains and hard living, this tune is also home to one of the most well known country choruses. Undoubtedly Kenny Rogers’ most famous song, “The Gambler” earned the Roaster a Grammy in 1980. It also lent its title to a series of TV movies starring the singer, and is a favorite of both “King of the Hill”s Hank Hill and the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. Figure that one out.
#7: “Amarillo by Morning” (1983) George Strait
Although originally written and recorded by Terry Stafford in 1973, “Amarillo by Morning” wasn’t really a huge hit. A decade later, it was dusted off by George Strait for his second album, Strait from the Heart. This fresh recording went to number four on the American country charts and set the stage for Strait to become “the King of Country.”
#6: “Your Cheatin’ Heart” (1953) Hank Williams
Dipping into the same well of despair as he did on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” this song was put to tape during Hank Williams’ last recording session. It became a posthumous hit following his death on New Year’s Day of 1953. Released as a B-side, the country standard was written about Williams’ first wife and mother to his son, Hank Williams Jr.
#5: “Stand by Your Man” (1968) Tammy Wynette
Written in just 15 minutes by Tammy Wynette and co-writer Billy Sherrill, this song became the First Lady of Country Music’s signature tune. Not surprisingly, it also became one of most covered songs in all of country music, but not everyone was happy about that—since it was released amid the feminist movement, the singer often had to defend the song as an anthem of understanding rather than a call to servitude.
#4: “Mama Tried” (1968) Merle Haggard
Country music may have its share of prison songs but none ring as true as this one. The self-penned tune is a semi-autobiographical take on Merle Haggard’s troubled upbringing, including jail time. Following an escape attempt, the Hag was transferred to San Quentin and kept living the thug life until witnessing Johnny Cash’s infamous performance at the facility in 1958.
#3: “Crazy” (1961) Patsy Cline
Penned by future superstar Willie Nelson, this was Cline’s follow-up to her crossover hit “I Fall To Pieces.” “Crazy” helped the singer maintain her newfound popularity on the pop charts and saw her hit the number two spot on the country charts. Owing to its gender-neutral lyrics, the song has since been covered by both male and female singers, including Nelson himself for his 1962 debut album.
#2: “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980) George Jones
By 1980, The Possum was much more a has-been than a legend, but that all changed with this heart breaker. Getting George Jones to record this ballad was no easy task, as the singer openly hated the song initially. Plus, Jones’ heavy drinking and slurred speaking voice made recording the spoken portion of the song nearly impossible. Only through careful editing was producer Billy Sherrill able to create a vocal track and rebuild the singer’s legacy.
- “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (1979) Charlie Daniels
- “Wide Open Spaces” (1998) Dixie Chicks
- “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970) Loretta Lynn
- “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (1978) Waylon Jennings with Willie Nelson
- “El Paso” (1959) Marty Robbins
#1: “Ring of Fire” (1963) Johnny Cash
Written by Merle Kilgore and the Man in Black’s future bride, June Carter, “Ring of Fire” documents June’s take on the love affair between her and Johnny Cash. First recorded by her sister Anita Carter, the country and rock ‘n’ roller eventually earned him his first country number one in four years. Cash’s addition of mariachi horns saw him break new ground but also added a new flavor to country music light years beyond his previous material like “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite country song? For more hard workin’ Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.