Top 10 Best 80s Country Songs: Iconic Hits You Can’t Miss

The 1980s were a golden era for country music, marked by iconic artists and unforgettable songs. During this decade, country music saw a blend of traditional sounds and modern influences, creating timeless hits that still resonate today. Fans of all ages find joy in the heartfelt lyrics, relatable stories, and distinct melodies that define this period.

This list celebrates the top 10 best 80s country songs that encapsulate the essence of the decade’s musical landscape. From love ballads to toe-tapping anthems, these songs offer a nostalgic journey through one of country music’s most vibrant eras.

A jukebox blares 80s country tunes as cowboy boots tap on a sawdust-covered dance floor under the warm glow of neon lights

Selecting just 10 songs is no easy feat given the plethora of outstanding tracks from that decade. This carefully curated list captures the spirit and diversity of 80s country music, ensuring that both longtime fans and new listeners can appreciate the genre’s rich history. Explore the songs that not only topped the charts but also left a lasting legacy in the world of country music.

1. Dolly Parton – “9 to 5”

“9 to 5” is one of Dolly Parton’s most iconic songs. Released in 1980, it quickly became an anthem for working-class women.

  • Song Name: “9 to 5”
  • Album: 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs
  • Release Date: 1980

Why we included this song on the list

This song captures the struggles of overworked and underpaid employees. Its catchy tune and relatable lyrics made it a favorite among fans. It not only topped the charts but also earned Dolly two Grammy Awards. The song was a significant part of the 1980 comedy film “9 to 5,” which added to its popularity.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

Dolly Parton wrote “9 to 5” while on the set of the movie with the same name. She used her acrylic nails to create the typewriter-like beat heard at the beginning of the song.

The success of “9 to 5” cemented Dolly’s place in pop culture beyond just country music. It’s widely recognized as one of her signature songs, alongside hits like “Jolene.”

To learn more about this song, you can visit Wide Open Country or Billboard.

2. Kenny Rogers – ‘The Gambler’

“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers is one of the most iconic country songs of the 1980s. Released in 1978, it became a defining track for Rogers and is still celebrated today. It’s known for its engaging storytelling and memorable chorus.

  • Song Name: The Gambler
  • Album: The Gambler
  • Release Date: November 15, 1978

Why we included this song on the list:
“The Gambler” stands out for its story-telling. In the song, an old gambler imparts his wisdom to a young man, offering life advice through poker metaphors. This unique narrative and catchy tune have made it a timeless classic.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

  • The song was written by Don Schlitz, who reportedly wrote it in just a few hours.
  • It won the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980.
  • Kenny Rogers’ rendition became so popular that it led to a series of TV movies starring Rogers as the titular character.

For more insights, check out the article on Taste of Country.

3. Alabama – ‘Mountain Music’

“Mountain Music” is a classic by the iconic country band Alabama. This song shows their ability to blend traditional country sounds with Southern rock.

  • Song Name: Mountain Music
  • Album: Mountain Music
  • Release Date: January 14, 1982

Why we included this song on the list

“Mountain Music” became a symbol of the 1980s country music scene. It captured the band’s deep roots and strong connection to Southern culture. Its catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics make it a timeless favorite.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

Written by Randy Owen, Alabama’s lead singer, “Mountain Music” took three years to complete. The song blends country, Southern rock, and bluegrass elements, reflecting Owen’s childhood experiences. It also helped the album reach new heights, becoming the first country album to go quadruple platinum.

4. George Strait – “Amarillo by Morning”

George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” stands as one of the iconic country songs from the 80s. Released as the third single from his album Strait From the Heart, it peaked at number four on the Billboard Country chart in February 1983.

  • Song name: Amarillo by Morning
  • Album: Strait From the Heart
  • Release date: 1983

Why we included this song on the list

The song’s timeless melody and heartfelt lyrics make it a classic. Even though it isn’t one of Strait’s 60 number-one hits, its impact on country music is undeniable. It showcases his strong, steady voice and the simple yet profound storytelling that defines his style.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The inspiration for “Amarillo by Morning” came from a TV commercial. Despite being over 40 years old, the song remains one of George Strait’s most-streamed tracks on various music platforms. Additionally, it is the only single from the 80s by Strait to be certified Double Platinum. It continues to resonate with audiences today, demonstrating its lasting appeal.

5. Garth Brooks – ‘Friends in Low Places’

  • Song name: Friends in Low Places
  • Album: No Fences
  • Release date: August 1990

Why we included this song on the list:

“Friends in Low Places” is one of Garth Brooks’ most iconic songs. It became a massive hit when it was released and is still beloved by fans today. The song perfectly captures the spirit of country music in the late ’80s and early ’90s, blending humor with heartbreak.

Its catchy melody and relatable lyrics helped it top the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for four weeks, making it a staple in Brooks’ career and a defining track of the era.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

  • “Friends in Low Places” was written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee.
  • The song’s popularity led to it becoming a regular sing-along anthem at Brooks’ concerts.
  • Garth Brooks was relatively unknown before this hit, but the song’s success helped catapult him to stardom.
  • The chorus is often the highlight, especially the line about “friends in low places,” resonating with audiences globally.
  • Garth Brooks’ performance of the song is noted for its energy and sing-along appeal, making it a favorite at live shows.

To listen to more about the success and story behind “Friends in Low Places,” check out this YouTube video.

6. Reba McEntire – ‘Fancy’

Reba McEntire’s “Fancy” is one of her most iconic songs. Originally recorded by Bobbie Gentry in 1969, McEntire’s cover gave it new life. Released in 1991 as a single from her album Rumor Has It, the song reached No. 8 on the Country chart.

  • Song name: ‘Fancy’
  • Album: Rumor Has It
  • Release date: 1991

Why we included this song on the list:

“Fancy” is a powerful story song that showcases McEntire’s storytelling ability. The song is about a woman overcoming her poor upbringing through determination and resilience. Its strong narrative and emotional impact make it a stand-out track from the ’80s country era.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

McEntire often ends her live shows with “Fancy,” highlighting its importance in her repertoire. The song’s music video features a dramatic depiction of the story, further cementing its place in country music history. McEntire’s version of “Fancy” has been included in lists of the greatest country songs of all time.

7. Willie Nelson – “On the Road Again”

“On the Road Again” is one of Willie Nelson’s most iconic songs. The song talks about life on tour and the joy of making music with his friends.

  • Song name: “On the Road Again”
  • Album: Honeysuckle Rose
  • Release date: 1980

Why we included this song on the list

This song became a popular hit, reaching the top of the country music charts. It was written specifically for the movie “Honeysuckle Rose.” The catchy tune and memorable lyrics encapsulate the spirit of the open road and the musician’s lifestyle.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“On the Road Again” won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song. It is Willie Nelson’s 9th Country & Western No. 1 hit. Nelson wrote the song on a barf bag during a flight after the movie’s producer asked him to write a song about being on the road.

8. Randy Travis – “Forever and Ever, Amen”

“Forever and Ever, Amen” is a classic country song by Randy Travis. It became one of his most iconic hits.

  • Song Name: “Forever and Ever, Amen”
  • Album: Always & Forever
  • Release Date: 1987

Why we included this song on the list

This song is a symbol of 80s country music. It showcases Randy Travis’s deep voice and storytelling ability. The song also spent three weeks at number one on the country singles chart.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“Forever and Ever, Amen” earned Travis two Grammy Awards. It also won three Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards and four Country Music Association (CMA) awards. Written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, the song is noted for its heartfelt lyrics about eternal love.

The music video and audio versions have gained many views on platforms like YouTube.

9. Hank Williams Jr. – “A Country Boy Can Survive”

“A Country Boy Can Survive” is a classic song by Hank Williams Jr. It was released as a single in January 1982 and quickly became one of his signature tracks.

  • Song Name: A Country Boy Can Survive
  • Album Name: The Pressure Is On
  • Release Date: January 1982

Why we included this song on the list

This song showcases the resilience and self-sufficiency of rural life, something that resonates strongly with country music fans. Its lyrics reflect themes of survival and pride in country living, making it a timeless anthem in the genre.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

Even though it never reached number one, the song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. This track was re-recorded and updated by Williams shortly after the 9/11 attacks to reflect contemporary events. More than 25 years after its release, the song received a remix, highlighting its lasting impact over decades.

For a closer look, check out the official music video.

10. Juice Newton – “Queen of Hearts”

“Queen of Hearts” is a standout track by Juice Newton.

  • Song name: Queen of Hearts
  • Album: Juice
  • Release date: 1981

Why we included this song on the list

This song was an essential hit in the early 80s and stayed at number 2 on both the Billboard Adult Contemporary and the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Its mix of country and pop makes it a memorable tune that resonates with both genres.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was originally written by Hank DeVito and first recorded by Dave Edmunds in 1979. Juice Newton’s version became much more famous and helped her achieve significant recognition in the music industry. The music video for “Queen of Hearts” has been remastered in HD and continues to attract viewers.

The Impact of 80s Country Music

The 1980s was a transformative decade for country music, marked by cultural influence and genre evolution. Key artists and songs from this era left lasting impressions on both the music industry and its listeners.

Cultural Influence

In the 1980s, country music significantly impacted American culture. Artists like Don Williams with his song “I Believe in You” brought tender themes of love and hope into mainstream consciousness. The era’s songs often mirrored the values and struggles of everyday life, resonating deeply with fans.

Concerts became cultural events, drawing large crowds. The rise of music videos on platforms like MTV helped country music reach younger audiences. This broader appeal expanded the genre’s impact beyond traditional listeners, fostering a more diverse fanbase and helping country music become a staple in American homes.

Genre Evolution

The 1980s saw significant shifts in the sound and style of country music. Traditional elements blended with rock influences, as seen in the music of artists like Restless Heart, who crossed over into the pop world with their hit from 1987. This blending of genres helped country music evolve and stay relevant.

The decade also introduced new production techniques and instruments, changing the genre’s sonic landscape. Synthesizers and electric guitars became more common, giving rise to new subgenres. This period of experimentation and innovation laid the groundwork for the diverse array of styles present in country music today.

Notable Artists and Bands

The 1980s were a golden era for country music, spotlighting legendary performers and groundbreaking bands. Their influence can still be felt today in the modern country scene.

Iconic Singers

George Jones is often hailed as one of the greatest country singers of all time. His song “He Stopped Loving Her Today” remains a defining track of the decade. Known for his emotive voice and storytelling, Jones left a lasting mark on the genre.

Dolly Parton also dominated the ’80s, with hits like “9 to 5” that crossed over into the pop charts. Her talent for blending country with other genres helped her build a wide-ranging fan base.

Randy Travis emerged as a powerful new voice in country music, helping to revive traditional styles with songs like “Forever and Ever, Amen.” His deep, resonant voice and heartfelt lyrics made him a standout figure.

Reba McEntire brought a dynamic presence to the country landscape. With songs like “Whoever’s in New England,” she showcased her vocal abilities and emotional depth, earning her a dedicated following.

Influential Bands

Alabama was a pivotal band in the 1980s country scene. Their song “Dixieland Delight” became an anthem, spending weeks at number one. Alabama’s blend of country, rock, and pop influences helped to appeal to a diverse audience.

The Oak Ridge Boys became famous with hits such as “Elvira,” which showcased their distinctive vocal harmonies. They managed to mix gospel roots with mainstream country appeal, influencing many future acts.

Highway 101 brought a contemporary sound to the genre. Their debut album produced several hits and they were praised for their strong melodies and modern production.

The Judds were a mother-daughter duo that became one of the most successful acts of the decade. Songs like “Why Not Me” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” highlighted their unique harmonies and storytelling abilities.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played a significant role in the ’80s with hits like “Fishin’ in the Dark.” Their fusion of bluegrass, country, and rock elements helped shape a new sound in the genre.

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