Before megastars like Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, and Carrie Underwood really brought country music back into the limelight of the mainstream music industry, country music seemed doomed to die a slow agonizing death, only enjoyed by the older generation, or the ever dwindling number of real cowboys plying their trade on ranches throughout North America. The 1980s marked a low point in the history of country music, with hair bands, heavy metal, and rap music capturing the attention of 99% of the younger generation. Still, there were some great artists making great country music in that decade, and they grimly soldiered on, despite their rapidly dwindling fanbase. The megastar country artists of today that are enjoying huge success owe a great debt of gratitude to those who paved the way for them in the 80s, keeping the spark of country music alive, until the right wind came along and blew it back into full flame. This list of the top 10 country songs of the 80s is a tribute to those diehard country crooners, who kept making the music they loved, even after their dogs died, their trucks broke down, and their women left them.
10 – Kenny Rogers – Coward of the County
Though most famous for his all time country classic, The Gambler, the snowy bearded Kenny Rogers had numerous other country hits in the 70s and 80s. Coward of the County debuted in 1980, and made it to the top of the charts, telling the tale of Tommy, who was forced to defy the dying wish of his father to defend the honor of the woman he loved.
9 – George Strait – All My Ex’s Live in Texas
Who says these country singers are so morose? George Strait shows his sense of humor with this little spoof on the standard country song.
8 – Dan Seals – Bop
Country music fans had endured a long dry spell, but country music was starting to cross back over into mainstream music in the late 80s, and this toe-tapping, two-stepping song got regular play on popular radio stations throughout the country.
7 – Hank Williams Jr. and Hank Williams Sr. – There’s a Tear in my Beer
Two generations of country music legends brought together by technology to sing this classic drunken duet.
6 – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Fishin’ in the Dark
This song still gets played on a regular basis at the nightclubs (not just country bars) here in town. It is one of the most danceable country songs ever written.
5 – The Judds – Grandpa (Tell Me About the Good Old Days)
Some female representation was definitely needed on this list of the top 10 country songs of the 80s, and as the Judds were arguably the biggest female country stars of that decade this touching ballad deserves a spot on the list
4 – Willie Nelson – Always on My Mind
One of the all time kings of country, Willie Nelson has produced countless country favorites. Always on My Mind by Brenda Lee has also been covered by Elvis Presley and the Pet Shop Boys, but Willie’s country twang version remains the best version of the song to date.
3 – Randy Travis – Forever & Ever Amen
Silky smooth. Two words that sum up the vocal talent of Randy Travis. He had a bevy of great songs in his heyday, but this was the best of him, and this late 80s hit almost single-handedly made country cool again. Still played as the first song at many weddings.
2 – Waylon Jennings – Theme from Dukes of Hazard (Good Ol’ Boys)
Back in 1980 everyone was watching the Dukes of Hazzard, and the catchy intro tune by country legend, Waylon Jennings was on everyone’s lips. One of those great sing-along songs that transcended the genre and was a huge hit in mainstream culture.
1 – Dolly Parton – 9 to 5
While Willie Nelson has some strong competition for the title of king of country, there can be no question that Dolly Parton is the queen. She is truly in a class of her own, and has been singing some of country’s biggest hits for decades now. This song about the working woman’s plight was the theme to the 1980 movie starring Dolly, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin. While the movie was mostly forgettable, the song certainly was not. It holds a deserving spot at the top of the list of the top 10 country songs of the 80s. No question, Dolly is the queen of country.