The dynamic decade of the 1980s produced many hits from different genres, and country music was not forgotten!
Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Alabama. These stars certainly gave us some 80s country music that we will never forget.
To give you a brief yet exciting trip through the 80s, here is our list of the best 80s country songs.
Table of Contents
- 1. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
- 2. “Highwayman” by The Highwaymen
- 3. “Think It Over” by Steve Earle
- 4. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones
- 5. “Meet Me in Montana” by Dan Seals and Marie Osmond
- 6. “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ole Days)” by The Judds
- 7. “Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn
- 8. “Seven Year Ache” by Rosanne Cash
- 9. “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks
- 10. “Seven Spanish Angels” by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson
- 11. “Queen Of Hearts” by Juice Newton
- 12. “I’d Love To Lay You Down” by Conway Twitty
- 13. “Fishin’ In The Dark” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
- 14. “She’s Crazy For Leavin’” by Rodney Crowell
- 15. “Beneath Still Waters” by Emmylou Harris
- 16. “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama
- 17. “Woke Up In Love” by Exile
- 18. “Killin’ Time” by Clint Black
- 19. “9 To 5” by Dolly Parton
- 20. “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr.
- 21. “Could I Have This Dance” by Anne Murray
- 22. “Elvira” by The Oak Ridge Boys
- 23. “Bop” by Dan Seals
- 24. “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” by Kathy Mattea
- 25. “I Believe In You” by Don Williams
- 26. “Country Boy” by Ricky Skaggs
- 27. “Do Ya” by K.T. Oslin
- 28. “All My Ex’s Live In Texas” by George Strait
- 29. “Guitars, Cadillacs” by Dwight Yoakam
- 30. “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” by Mel McDaniel
- 31. “Starting Over Again” by Dolly Parton
- 32. “I’ll Still Be Loving You” by Restless Heart
- 33. “Looking For Love” by Johnny Lee
- 34. “Islands In The Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
- 35. “Smoky Mountain Rain” by Ronnie Milsap
- 36. “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” by Barbara Mandrell
- 37. “Redneck Girl” by The Bellamy Brothers
- 38. “When You Say Nothing At All” by Keith Whitley
- 39. “Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson
- 40. “I Love A Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt
- 41. “Whoever’s In New England” by Reba McEntire
- 42. “Forever And Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis
- 43. “Lady” by Kenny Rogers
- 44. “The Church On Cumberland Road” by Shenandoah
- 45. “You Decorated My Life” by Kenny Rogers
- 46. “God Bless The USA” by Lee Greenwood
- 47. “I’ll Leave This World Loving You” by Ricky Van Shelton
- 48. “You And I” by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle
- 49. “Nobody” by Sylvia
- 50. “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle
- 51. “Why Not Me” by The Judds
- 52. “On The Other Hand” by Randy Travis
- 53. “Hold Me” by K.T. Oslin
- 54. “Why’d You Come In Lookin’ Like That” by Dolly Parton
- 55. “Passionate Kisses” by Lucinda Williams
- 56. “We’ve Got Tonight” by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton
- 57. “Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait
- 58. “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak
- 59. “I’m Gonna Love Her On The Radio” by Charley Pride
- 60. “Crying” by Roy Orbison and k.d. Lang
- 61. “Guitar Town” by Steve Earle
- 62. “Mama He’s Crazy” by The Judds
- 63. “Good Year For The Roses” by Elvis Costello
- 64. “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt
- 65. “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas” by Alabama
- 80s Country Songs – Final Thoughts
1. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
Written as a goodbye message to her business partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, this country song was released firstly in 1974, then re-released in the 80s.
The well-known song expresses Parton’s decision to pursue a solo career, which she clearly succeeded in!
Dolly confirmed that Elvis Presley requested to cover the song, but she reluctantly declined after her manager informed her that she would have to sign over half of the publishing rights.
2. “Highwayman” by The Highwaymen
“Highwayman” is an 80s country song written by Jimmy Webb, inspired by the real-life hanged highwayman Jonathan Wild.
It’s about a soul in four different places in history: a highwayman, a sailor, a construction worker, and as a captain of a starship.
In 1985, the song became the inspiration for the naming of the supergroup the Highwaymen, which featured Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.
3. “Think It Over” by Steve Earle
The 80s country song no doubt helped many people through some tough decisions.
It’s about a man struggling with his decision to leave his family, and the conflict is captured greatly by Earle and his heartfelt lyrics.
Country music fan or not, this song is totally worth listening to when you’re in a predicament.
4. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones
This 80s country song was Jones’s first solo number one single in six years, and is named by many as the best country song of all time.
The week after Jones’ death in 2013, the song re-entered the Hot Country Songs chart at number 21, proving its relevance in the modern day.
As of November 2013, the single has sold 521,000 copies in the US!
5. “Meet Me in Montana” by Dan Seals and Marie Osmond
“Meet Me in Montana” reached number one on the Hot Country Singles chart for one week in 1985 and it was the first chart-topping hit for Seals, second for Osmond.
When Osmond performs live since Seal’s death in 2009, Osmond’s brother Merrill Osmond usually serves as the duet partner.
The 80s country hit even earned Seals and Osmond the Country Music Association Vocal Duo of the Year award in 1986, making it a truly successful song.
6. “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ole Days)” by The Judds
Despite the song lyrics, the good old days weren’t so good for the Judd clan, which is why the singers connected so strongly with the song’s message.
Naomi struggled as a single mother after both her and her parent’s divorce.
As for her maternal grandfathers, she told Closer Weekly in 2017, “My great-grandfather was a mass murderer, and after his son became my grandfather, my grandmother murdered him.”
7. “Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn
The song was released in 1986 as the final single from the self-titled album by Holly Dunn.
Dunn received two Grammy Award nominations in 1987 for the song: Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song.
The song is a tribute to her father, who was a minister.
Dunn noted that the song received a positive reception and recognized after its success that “people like hearing about a family relationship that’s stable and loving.”
8. “Seven Year Ache” by Rosanne Cash
Released in February 1981 as the first single and title track from Cash’s album of the same name, “Seven Year Ache” was Cash’s first of ten No. 1 hits on the US Country charts.
It was her fourth single and is widely considered her breakthrough recording.
This 80s country song was the beginning of Rosanne Cash’s career and certainly helped her to break into the world of country.
9. “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks
The first country love song released by Brooks, this 80s country song tells the story of a man who lies awake at night, thinking about what would happen in his lover’s mind if he were to die the next day.
It is obvious that Brooks had a vision for the song, as he says:
“‘If Tomorrow Never Comes” will probably always be my signature song. I ran the idea for this song by what seemed like a thousand writers and no one really seemed to understand what I was looking for. On the day that Bob Doyle, my co-manager, introduced me to Kent Blazy, I passed this idea by Kent and he had the first verse down within fifteen seconds.”
10. “Seven Spanish Angels” by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson
In this top country song of the 1980s, Charles and Nelson split the verses with Charles singing the first and Nelson the second.
It was also included in Nelson’s 1985 compilation album ‘Half Nelson’.
“Seven Spanish Angels” was the most successful of Charles’ eight hits on the country chart, with the single spending one week at number one and a total of twelve weeks on the country chart.
11. “Queen Of Hearts” by Juice Newton
Following an appearance on the 1980 Rodney Crowell album ‘But What Will the Neighbors Think‘, “Queen of Hearts” had its highest-profile rendition by country-rock singer Juice Newton in 1981.
Newton stated: “I did it live for about a year…then I brought it to [producer] Richard Landis when we started the album. He wasn’t convinced…that it was a breakout song but I told him I think this is a real cool song…so we cut it.”
12. “I’d Love To Lay You Down” by Conway Twitty
The song, which has sold 300,000 digital copies since becoming available for download, was Twitty’s 24th number one on the country chart and stayed at number one for a week.
Conway’s version of this 80s country song features an unusual series of key changes: the song progressively lowers in key instead of the musical standard of changing keys upwards.
This may be why this song is so loved still to this day; it changed the course of country music and stood out from the crowd.
13. “Fishin’ In The Dark” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Fishin’ In The Dark” was Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s third number-one single on the US charts, and it truly is a fan favorite.
After it became available for download, it had sold over a million digital copies by 2015.
The 80s country song was certified Platinum by the RIAA in 2014, proving it is still relevant to this day.
14. “She’s Crazy For Leavin’” by Rodney Crowell
“She’s Crazy for Leavin'” was co-written and recorded by American country music artist Rodney Crowell.
The song was first recorded by Steve Wariner and appeared on his album, but was never released as a single.
Crowell’s version was released in 1988 as a single from his album ‘Diamonds & Dirt’.
The song was Crowell’s second number one country hit and stayed up there for a week.
15. “Beneath Still Waters” by Emmylou Harris
“Beneath Still Waters” was written by Dallas Frazier in 1967 and first recorded the same year by George Jones.
In March 1980, Harris scored her fourth number one hit on the country chart with her version of the song, which was a single from her album ‘Blue Kentucky Girl’.
16. “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama
Songwriter Ronnie Rogers recalled to journalist Tom Roland that the idea for this 80s country song came to him when he was driving down a highway in Tennessee.
The song’s title refers to the girlfriend of the singer of the band, leading to an image of the main character envisioning a weekend of fun and relaxation with her after a long, hard work week.
17. “Woke Up In Love” by Exile
“Woke Up In Love” was Exile’s second country song and the first of ten number-one singles on the country chart.
This 80s country song continues to prevail as one of the band’s most popular songs since they transitioned to country music in 1983.
18. “Killin’ Time” by Clint Black
This 80s country hit established Black as one of the biggest stars in country music, appearing on his debut album of the same name.
Black’s album is certified triple platinum by the RIAA and, when Billboard published its Hot Country Singles chart for 1989, ‘Killin’ Time’ was the No. 2 song of the year behind another from Black.
The success of “Killin’ Time” was critical to Black winning the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award in 1989!
19. “9 To 5” by Dolly Parton
‘9 to 5’ is a song written and recorded by star Dolly Parton for the 1980 comedy film of the same name.
The song gained Parton an Academy Award nomination and four Grammy Award nominations, winning her Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.
The song and film owe their titles to ‘9 to 5’, a 1973 organization with the aim of bringing fair pay and equal treatment to women in the workplace.
20. “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr.
This 80s country hit is considered to be one of Williams’ signature songs, despite the fact that it never reached number one.
Shortly after 9/11, Williams re-wrote the song, giving it the name “America Will Survive”.
In early 2007, he re-released the original version to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its original 1982 release.
This proves the popularity of the song in the modern day, and it remains a country classic.
21. “Could I Have This Dance” by Anne Murray
At the 23rd Annual Grammy Awards, Murray won her second Best Country Vocal Performance, Female for this 80s country hit.
“Could I have This Dance” was used in the 1980 film ‘Urban Cowboy’ and appeared on Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits compilation album.
As a single, it was released in August 1980 and it was incredibly successful, becoming Anne’s fifth number one country hit as a solo artist, staying on the charts for ten weeks.
22. “Elvira” by The Oak Ridge Boys
‘Elvira’ is an 80s country song originally performed by Dallas Frazier in 1966.
Though a minor hit for Frazier it became a much more famous country and pop hit when covered by The Oak Ridge Boys in 1981, over Memorial Day weekend becoming the group’s fourth number one country hit.
It was certified platinum for two million sales, a distinction for a country song it shared only with one other!
23. “Bop” by Dan Seals
“Bop” was released in 1985 as a single from Seals’ fifth studio album, ‘Won’t Be Blue Anymore’.
It successfully reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1986, becoming his first as a solo artist.
It was a major crossover hit as well, peaking at number 10 on the Adult Contemporary chart!
The music video shows an elderly couple dancing at the armory, with Seals performing the song onstage. Creative!
24. “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” by Kathy Mattea
This sweet 80s country song is about a truck driver named Charlie who is retiring after thirty years to spend more time with his wife.
The chorus counts down from the number 18 (the number of wheels) to 12 (the roses), until Charlie eventually reaches the “one that he loves.”
The love song was released in 1988 and hit number one on both the US and Canadian Country charts, a huge success for Mattea!
25. “I Believe In You” by Don Williams
This 80s country song was Williams’ eleventh number 1 on Billboard’s country chart, selling an enormous 286,000 downloads when it became digital!
It was Don Williams’ only Top 40 entry, where it peaked at number 24.
“I Believe in You” was also a hit in Europe and Australia, but was best received in New Zealand where it reached number four and is ranked as the 38th biggest hit of 1981.
26. “Country Boy” by Ricky Skaggs
“Country Boy” was released in 1985 and was Skaggs’ ninth number one country hit.
The single went to number one for one week and spent a total of 13 weeks on the country chart, quickly becoming a popular 80s country song.
The video was one of four nominees for the first “Music Video of the Year” honor in 1985.
While Skaggs was named “Entertainer of the Year”, the video, unfortunately, lost out on the prize.
27. “Do Ya” by K.T. Oslin
“Do Ya” was released in 1987 as the third single from Oslin’s album 80’s Ladies.
The 80s country song was her third country hit and the first of four singles to hit number one on the country chart.
It went to number one for one week and spent a total of sixteen weeks on the country chart, landing K.T. Oslin on the map as a country artist.
28. “All My Ex’s Live In Texas” by George Strait
The 80s country hit, known for its Western Swing style rhythm, was nominated for Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 1988 Grammy Awards.
Country Universe gave it a B+ grade, saying that “you can almost hear the guy smirking as he sings this swinging hit, running down a list of jilted lovers from all over the Lone Star state.”
Rapper Drake mentions the song in his single “HYFR”, bringing this hit to the modern generation.
29. “Guitars, Cadillacs” by Dwight Yoakam
“Guitars, Cadillacs” remains a loved song in popular culture, playing during the bar scene in the 1991 sci-fi action film Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Larry Flick of Billboard magazine reviewed the song positively, saying that “walking bass, twangy guitar, fiddle, and Yoakam’s voice make it a pure hillbilly delight.”
In June 2014, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Yoakam’s country hit #94 in their list of the 100 greatest country songs, bringing it happily into this century.
30. “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” by Mel McDaniel
This 80s country song was McDaniel’s only number-one single, reaching the top in 1985.
Initially, Conway Twitty received the song but decided John Anderson’s vocals were better suited for it.
Anderson turned it down, leaving it to the talents of McDaniel.
Kip Kirby of Billboard magazine reviewed the song, calling it a “change of pace for McDaniel, who here ogles the national treasure alluded to in the title while absolving the bearer of lascivious intent”.
31. “Starting Over Again” by Dolly Parton
This 1980 country hit was written by Donna Summer and her husband Bruce Sudano.
Parton’s recording was performed as a slow ballad which builds to a dramatic crescendo, making it an exciting listen!
It was released as the first single from Parton’s album ‘Dolly, Dolly, Dolly’, and reached number 1 on the US country charts.
It tells the story of a couple separating after 30 years of marriage, based upon the divorce of Sudano’s parents.
32. “I’ll Still Be Loving You” by Restless Heart
The 80s country song “I’ll Still Be Loving You” was released in 1987 and was Restless Heart’s second number-one country single.
It shot to number 1 on Hot Country Songs and spent 25 weeks on the chart.
The single also performed well on the Adult Contemporary chart and gave the country band their first exposure on the pop charts, even becoming their first top 40 single.
33. “Looking For Love” by Johnny Lee
This song was off to a rocky start, but it was eventually offered to Lee after over 20 artists rejected it!
Critics were not kind to Lee or the song, with critic Kurt Wolff calling it “watered-down cowboy music”.
It was avenged when it became a huge commercial hit, largely because “actor John Travolta [of ‘Urban Cowboy’] expressed a liking for it.”
The song is now loved by many, and praised by country fans and critics alike.
34. “Islands In The Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
Rogers and Parton are perhaps the greatest 80s duo ever!
Named after the Ernest Hemingway novel, the song was originally written by The Bee Gees for Diana Ross in an R&B style but was later reworked for the duet.
Cash Box rightly said that “the sound is simply gorgeous, as is the melody, as are the voices”.
In 2008, radio station WZOW played the catchy song continuously for several days on end!
35. “Smoky Mountain Rain” by Ronnie Milsap
This 80s country song was released as the only single from Milsap’s Greatest Hits compilation album, quickly becoming one of his best-known hits.
In 2010 it even became Tennessee’s state song!
Milsap liked the lyrics of Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” so much that “Smoky Mountain Rain” was written for him similarly, albeit with a country flavor.
It was his 16th number one hit on Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles chart, faring well against its competitors.
36. “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” by Barbara Mandrell
This 80s country song featured an uncredited guest appearance by country artist George Jones, complimenting Mandrell perfectly.
It was nominated for 1981 Single of the Year and helped her win the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award.
Interestingly, Mandrell recorded the song as a “live” performance but the track was actually recorded in the studio with an audience applause track to fit the context of her forthcoming live album.
37. “Redneck Girl” by The Bellamy Brothers
This hit was written by David Bellamy and was recorded by country music duo The Bellamy Brothers.
Released in 1982 as the first single from the album ‘Strong Weakness’, it became the sixth number one country hit for the duo.
The lyrics are about a beautiful and confident Southern girl, despite her redneck roots, and is aimed to be empowering for women.
It has definitely aged well!
38. “When You Say Nothing At All” by Keith Whitley
This country hit was successful for four different performers: Keith Whitley (1988); Alison Krauss (1995); Frances Black (1996); and Ronan Keating (1999).
“When You Say Nothing At All” was the second of five consecutive no. 1 singles for Whitley, who sadly did not live to see the final two.
“Keith did a great job singin’ that song,” co-composer Schlitz told author Tom Roland. “He truly sang it from the heart.”
39. “Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson
Nelson’s version of this song topped the Hot Country Singles chart of ‘82 and was certified platinum in 1991.
It resulted in three wins at the 25th Grammy Awards: two for songwriters Christopher, James, and Carson, and Nelson won for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
The song contributed to him winning 1982 Album of the Year, alongside countless other awards.
It was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008!
40. “I Love A Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt
This 80s country hit reached number one on the Hot Country Singles, Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary Singles charts.
According to historian Fred Bronson, “I Love a Rainy Night” was 12 years in the making – they truly wanted to perfect it!
Rabbitt one day heard a fragment of a song he had recorded in the late 1960s.
Upon rediscovery, he completed the song (with help from partners Even Stevens and David Malloy) and recorded it.
41. “Whoever’s In New England” by Reba McEntire
“Whoever’s in New England” was released in ‘86 and changed McEntire’s career, maybe because it was promoted by her first music video, helping her first album to be certified platinum.
Inspired partially by Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England”, the song was written about a Southern woman who believes her husband is having an affair but stays with him.
In 1987, McEntire won her first Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, thanks to this song.
42. “Forever And Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis
The idea for this title stemmed from writer Schlitz’s son, who would often remark to his mother, “Mommy, I love you forever and ever, amen.”
Schlitz relayed the loving message to writer Overstreet, and the two quickly wrote the song.
It won a Grammy for Best Country & Western Song at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards, among other awards.
Three decades after its release it was certified Gold, an excellent feat for an 80s country song.
43. “Lady” by Kenny Rogers
Written and produced by Lionel Richie, this 1980 country song ranks as Kenny Rogers’ biggest-selling hit single.
Rogers said, “The idea was that Lionel would come from R&B and I’d come from country, and we’d meet somewhere in pop.”
“Lady,” according to music historian Fred Bronson, was an important record for both Richie and Rogers, becoming the first song of the 1980s to chart on all four of Billboard magazine’s singles charts.
44. “The Church On Cumberland Road” by Shenandoah
“The Church on Cumberland Road” was released in 1989 as the second single from Shenandoah’s album “The Road Not Taken”.
It was the group’s first number-one hit in both the US and Canada.
The music video, directed by Larry Boothby, was the band’s first.
According to drummer Mike McGuire, it helped create more recognition and fame for the band and its members.
45. “You Decorated My Life” by Kenny Rogers
“You Decorated My Life”, written by Debbie Hupp and Bob Morrison, was released in 1979.
It was a number-one hit on the Billboard Country Singles chart and reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
Cash Box said that “Rogers’ smooth, sincere vocal reading here is once again up to his usual high standards.”
This 80s country song is extremely well-known and was definitely brought to life by country star Kenny Rogers!
46. “God Bless The USA” by Lee Greenwood
This hit is the epitome of 80s country music and it was played at the 1984 Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in attendance.
The popularity of the song rose again sharply after the 9/11 attacks and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when the song re-entered the country music charts.
Donald Trump used the song as his entrance tune during his presidency, sometimes with Greenwood singing live.
47. “I’ll Leave This World Loving You” by Ricky Van Shelton
This country song was originally written by Wayne Kemp and Mack Vickery, and released by Kemp in 1980.
The 80s country hit was later covered by Shelton in ‘88 as a single from his album ‘Loving Proof’.
The fourth consecutive number one single of his career, it also won him Song of the Year.
“I’ll Leave This World Loving You” is often named one of the best country songs of the 80s, and we totally agree!
48. “You And I” by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle
“You and I” was a brilliant country-pop crossover hit for both artists, and was ranked number seven on CMT’s 100 Greatest Duets in Country Music in 2005.
The song went all the way to number one on the US Billboard Country chart, staying there for one week.
It spent 29 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number seven, making it the 12th biggest song of the year. That’s a pretty impressive ranking!
49. “Nobody” by Sylvia
This great 80s country song was first recorded in ‘82 by Sylvia, who was already a country music star, achieving a number 1 hit and two other top ten hits previously.
The song turned young Sylvia into a star, becoming her signature song and getting her nominated for a Grammy award in ‘83 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
The title also gained an award for receiving the most radio airplay in 1983!
50. “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle
The 80s country song reached number 10 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and was Earle’s highest-peaking song; it even inspired a popular line dance!
The well-loved song has sold 1.1 million digital copies in the US as of 2017!
Copperhead Road was an actual road in Tennessee in an area known as “Big Dry Run”, although it has since been renamed due to the theft of road signs bearing the song’s name.
51. “Why Not Me” by The Judds
“Why Not Me” was released in 1984 as the first single and title track from the album of the same name.
The song was the duo’s second number one on the country chart, staying up there for two weeks.
Bobby Ogdin created the thumping backbeat for the 80s country song by wrapping a rag around the strings of a guitar and striking his thumb against the body. How unique!
52. “On The Other Hand” by Randy Travis
“On the Other Hand” was Travis’ first single with Warner Bros and was only a minor hit in the beginning.
The label reissued the song, however, in 1986 and it became his first number one hit in both the US and Canada.
In this 80s country song, Travis is about to get frisky with a lady he’s hooked up with when the wedding ring on his finger reminds him of his wife back home.
53. “Hold Me” by K.T. Oslin
“Hold Me” was both written and recorded by Oslin in 1988, and the song is a testament to her incredible skill.
It was a great success and was her third number one on the country chart, sitting at number one for one week.
Oslin had moved to Nashville from New York only a few years prior, becoming one of the era’s latest-blooming country stars in her mid-40s.
54. “Why’d You Come In Lookin’ Like That” by Dolly Parton
“Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That” was a huge success, giving Parton her 18th number one on the country chart.
Parton performed the song when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 1989, and the world fell in love!
This incredible 80s country song is a first-person tale about a woman whose old flame is parading his new relationships in front of her, something many of us can relate to!
55. “Passionate Kisses” by Lucinda Williams
This 80s country song has had a brilliant critical reception, with Robin Denselow, The Guardian, calling the song a “rousing country rocker.”
Country music website The Boot later described it as “a modern-day feminist anthem about having it all — a comfortable bed, food, a rock band and passionate kisses.”
In 2021, “Passionate Kisses” ranked No. 437 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
This song really left its mark on the ‘80s!
56. “We’ve Got Tonight” by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton
This duo’s collaboration on “We’ve Got Tonight” was at the suggestion of label chairman Larry Mazza who hoped to restore Easton to chart royalty!
Rogers stated: “I liked the idea of recording with Sheena. I thought the contrast in styles–I’m so throaty and she’s so trained and pure–would really work well.”
Dennis Hunt (Los Angeles Times) complemented: “Rogers, never known for his vocal power, stretches to match Easton, [attaining] his finest vocal performance”.
57. “Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait
This classic 80s country song is sung from the point of view of a rodeo cowboy, driving at night to a county fair in Amarillo.
The man recounts the hardships his occupation has caused him, including divorce, broken bones, and poverty, but states that he does not regret his lifestyle.
Kevin John Coyne of Country Universe gave the song an A grade, saying that Strait has “finally found his niche as a performer.”
58. “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak
Despite being released as a single in 1989, “Wicked Game” did not become a hit until it was featured in the 1990 film Wild at Heart.
It soon reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first hit song of Isaak’s career.
“Wicked Game” has been featured a lot in popular culture, so much so that Dazed magazine questioned whether it might be the most influential love song in modern music!
59. “I’m Gonna Love Her On The Radio” by Charley Pride
“I’m Gonna Hurt Her on the Radio” was originally recorded by David Allan Coe in 1985.
It was later recorded by Charley Pride, whose version changed the title to “I’m Gonna Love Her on the Radio”.
Pride’s version was released in 1988 as the title track from the album of the same name, reaching number 13 on the charts.
60. “Crying” by Roy Orbison and k.d. Lang
Orbison re-recorded this great 80s country song as a duet with k.d. Lang as part of the soundtrack for the motion picture Hiding Out and released it as a single in 1987.
This duet won the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals!
It was a substantial hit in the United Kingdom and Ireland in ‘92, reaching No. 13 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 9 on the Irish Singles Chart.
61. “Guitar Town” by Steve Earle
“Guitar Town” was released by country star Steve Earle in 1986 as the second single and title track from the album of the same name.
Originally, the lyrics were “cheap guitar” but then changed to “Jap guitar” for reasons unknown.
Kip Kirby, of Billboard magazine, reviewed the song saying that Earle “revives the tremolo-laden guitar sound of the early ’60s for this song about music and love on the road.”
62. “Mama He’s Crazy” by The Judds
This 80s country song was released in 1984 as the second single from the duo’s debut EP Wynonna & Naomi.
The successful song was their second hit and the first of 14 number-one singles.
It was only the second country number one sung by a female duo, thus doing a lot for feminism and earning The Judds even more fame.
What truly keeps ‘Mama He’s Crazy’ in our ears today is its depth and harmony.
63. “Good Year For The Roses” by Elvis Costello
This George Jones 1970 hit performed well when covered by Elvis Costello.
The emotional vocals sing the thoughts of a man as his wife leaves him, a heartbreakingly sad story.
A surprise to many, this country hit by Costello resulted in a place in the UK Top 10.
64. “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt
In 1987 the song, originally recorded by The Teddy Bears, was resurrected by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris.
The recording topped the U.S. country singles chart quickly and unsurprisingly!
This song was included in their multi-million selling, grammy-winning album ‘Trio’ and has been covered by many other greats, including The Beatles!
65. “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas” by Alabama
This 80s country song became the group’s 14th consecutive number-one single on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, performing better than expected.
The chorus references “Faded Love” by Texas musician Bob Wills and “Louisiana Man” by Doug Kershaw repeatedly throughout this song.
The hit was used as the basis of “If You’re Gonna Run in Texas”, a radio campaign advertisement produced as part of US Senator Ted Cruz’s reelection campaign in 2018.
80s Country Songs – Final Thoughts
There you have it: the 65 best country songs of the 80s!
Whether you’re a country fan or not, you’re sure to love these hits.