30. Back In The Saddle Again- Gene Autry
One of the first huge crossover stars in country music history was the Singing Cowboy Gene Autry. Gene Autry was responsible for bringing country music to a national audience for the first time with his television show and movies. He won America's heart by being the epitome of a hero, the straight shooting cowboy who always saved the day. His theme song that he co-wrote with his wife, "Back in The Saddle Again", was released in 1938 and has become a beloved hit for one of America's national treasures.
29. Your Cheatin' Heart- Hank Williams
As was the case with every Hank Williams song, Hank lived every word of this 1953 hit. He wrote this song about his first wife, Aubrey. The song was part of Hank's last recordings before his death. The single was released shortly after his death and skyrocketed up the charts. It stayed atop the charts for 6 weeks. The song is a tragic reminder of what could have been. "Your Cheatin' Heart" is well written and Hank sounds fantastic on it. Hank was truly in his prime as an artist when he was taken from this world.
28. The Dance- Garth Brooks
Despite all of the pomp and circumstance that constantly surrounds Garth Brooks, the man had some excellent country songs. None were as significant as "The Dance". The song was written by Tony Arata. The double meaning behind the song shot it up the charts in 1990 and it won the CMA Song of The Year award the same year. The song is not only a love-gone-wrong song, but a celebration of life. The song has been used for many tributes, and the video is a touching tip of the hat to many celebrities who were taken too soon. The song was from Garth's self-titled debut album, and helped launch him to a whole new stratosphere of superstardom.
27. Faded Love- Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys
Bob Wills wrote this song with his father John Wills and his brother Billy Jack Wills. The song was a top ten hit for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1950. It has been covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley. It became a top ten hit again in 1963 when Patsy Cline recorded a cover of it. The song is known as a fiddle classic, as it perfectly represents the western swing style of fiddle playing that Bob Wills popularized in the 40's and 50's. To this day, all fiddle tunes are compared to "Faded Love", which set a high bar for fiddle solos in country music.
26. El Paso- Marty Robbins
"El Paso" was written and recorded by Marty Robbins for his 1959 album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. The song hit number one on the pop and country charts in 1959, and won a Grammy for Best Country And Western Recording in 1961. The song tells a vivid story about love and murder in the Texas town. Storytelling may be a lost art in country music today, but it plays a large role in the roots of the genre. "El Paso" is the pinnacle of storytelling, and it's appeal is timeless, as many artists still list this song as an inspiration.
25. Take This Job And Shove It- Johnny Paycheck
Johnny Paycheck recorded the ultimate kiss off song in 1977. The song was written by fellow country music outlaw royalty David Allan Coe. The song hit number one on the country charts. It was the biggest hit of Johnny Paycheck's career, and one of the best songs David Allan Coe ever wrote. The song perfectly captured the attitudes of hard-working Americans with bad bosses. My favorite part of the song is the honesty. He never actually tells his boss to shove the job, he just wishes he had to nerve to. Genius.
24. Where Where You (When The World Stopped Turning)- Alan Jackson
In the days following the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93, America was hurting. While Toby Keith captured our anger, Alan Jackson captured our fear and confusion. Alan wrote the song in the middle of the night in September 2001. He was given a special slot on the CMA Awards in November to debut the song. The performance will go down as one of the greatest award show moments in history. Alan received a standing ovation from the audience of stars, and the whole nation healed a little as Alan soothed our hurting hearts. The song speaks in simple and straightforward language as only Alan Jackson can do. The song hit number one on the country charts, won the CMA and ACM Awards for Song of The Year and Single of the Year, and won a Grammy for Best Country Song. While the awards are great, the emotional power behind this song will make it live on for years to come.
23. Ring of Fire- Johnny Cash
June Carter wrote about her burning passion for Johnny Cash with Merle Kilgore in the early 1960's. June's sister Anita first recorded it, but when Johnny Cash got a hold of it and added the signature mariachi horns, the song became a phenomenon. Many people regard this as Johnny's best song, noting the legacy status of the song and the crossover appeal it still has. While I prefer some of Johnny's originals to be better songs, "Ring of Fire" no doubt is one of the biggest in country music history, as it has stood the test of time and helped further the career of one of the greatest country music stars. The song was a number one country hit and had the longest stay at the top of any Johnny Cash songs, staying there for seven weeks.
22. Act Naturally- Buck Owens
When "Ring of Fire" hit number one, it knocked this hit by Buck Owens off the top spot. "Act Naturally" was written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison. Buck Owens released his version in 1963 and it went to number one on the country charts. The song was Buck's first number one, and it really launched Buck into his superstar status. Buck Owens and The Buckeroos were the biggest proponents of the "Bakersfield Sound" that caught on with national audiences in the 60's and 70's. Artists from Merle Haggard to Dwight Yoakam have had success with the Bakersfield Sound, and Buck went on to have 21 number one singles and was the face of the television show Hee-Haw for decades. And it all started with "Act Naturally".
21. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain- Willie Nelson
"Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" was written by Fred Rose, was first recorded by the great Roy Acuff and was even covered by Hank Williams. While Willie Nelson had huge success as a songwriter, he struggled to have a big solo hit as an artist. That changed in 1975 when he released the concept album Red Headed Stranger. The album played out like a movie, with Willie playing a preacher on the run after murdering his wife. "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" was the lead single from the album, and it finally gave Willie the chart success as a solo performer he was looking for. The song hit number one on the country charts and snuck into the pop charts as well, hitting number 21. The song used sparse instrumentation as a throwback to the older days of country music. Willie used his unique off-beat singing style to make this song all his own. "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" is a classic and is the foundation on which Willie's amazing legacy as a solo artist is built upon.