Ronnie Milsap is one of the most successful country artists in history, especially from the point of view of the charts: in a career dating back to 1963, he earned an impressive 35 solo number 1 hits in the US A Grand Ole Opry member from February. 6, 1976 – and an inductee from Country Country Hall of Fame 2014 – Milsap has also won six Grammy Awards.
The longevity and popularity of the North Carolina resident makes sense: he has always incorporated varied influences into his piano-based melodies, including gospel, R&B and even rock ‘n’ roll, and has continued to tour and record regularly. On his 2019 duet album, Ronnie Milsap: The Duets, he re-imagines some of his best-known hits with country legends (Willie Nelson, George Strait, Dolly Parton) and modern stars (Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan).
Listen below to The Boot’s choices for the Top 10 Ronnie Milsap numbers.
“What a difference you made in my life”
From ‘It Was Almost Like a Song’ from 1977
A genuine piano ballad cut with sweeping strings, the number 1 hit “What a difference you have made in my life” is Milsap at its simplest. More specifically, he is a confused romantic who tells how a significant other has changed his life for the better. “What a change you have made in my heart,” he sings with tenderness in his voice. “You have replaced all broken parts / Oh, what a change you have made in my heart.”
“Please don’t tell me how the story ends”
From ‘Pure Love’ from 1974
Written by Kris Kristofferson, “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends” spent two weeks at No. 1 and Milsap earned his first Grammy trophy for Best Country Vocal Performance. A nice slow dance lined with pedal language, the song is about living in the moment and enjoying a romantic evening – without worrying about what tomorrow might bring.
“Prisoner of the highway”
From ‘One More Try for Love’ from 1984
A top 10 hit, “Prisoner of the Highway” – with prominent keyboards and one of MIlsap’s most powerful vocal performances – feels like an outlaw country song updated for the 1980s. It is the story of a long-distance truck driver who has a love-hate relationship with the road and who finds both liberating and limiting. Mark Wills and Aaron Tippin have also covered the song.
“(I would) be a legend in my time”
From ‘A Legend in My Time’ from 1974
Milsap shows off his vibrato-laden croon on this Don Gibson-written ballad # 1, which is also covered by Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. The approach is appropriate: “(I would be) A legend in my time” shows a loving protagonist, trying to clarify his situation by joking that he would win a heartache contest (“Global recognition meant loneliness / everyone would know my name “). Complaining piano, rising orchestras and sweet backup harmonies give the version of Milsap a ’50s’ atmosphere that suits him well.
From ‘Pure Love’ from 1974
Written by Eddie Rabbitt, the happy first number 1 hit by Milsap is a sweet and somewhat brutal ode to the little things that make a relationship special. “With pure love, darling, it is pure love,” he sings. “Milk and honey and Cap’n Crunch, and you in the morning.” What is better than that?
“Stranger in My House”
From ‘Keyed Up’ from 1983
Milsap has adapted better to the leaner production and keyboard heavy style of the 80s than many of its countrymen from the 70s. Exhibit A: the dark, rock ‘n’ rolling ‘Stranger in My House’, which moved to the pop-hit lists and shows a break in relationship with thundering keyboards and a heavy electric guitar solo. Luke Bryan joined Milsap for a pretty difficult version of this song on the latter’s 2019 duet album.
“(I am a) Stand By My Woman Man”
From ’20 / 20 Vision ‘from 1976
If you start singing ‘Stand By Your Man’ by Tammy Wynette, that’s no coincidence: the Grammy-winning melody starts an introspective piano balde, before it flourishes in an elegant, swinging nod to the country’s iconic hit. Milsap portrays a man who conjures love and loyalty to his partner: “If she is not at home, she knows that I will be next to her / Because I am not only her lover, I am her friend.”
“Lost in the Fifties Tonight”
From ‘Greatest Hits, Volume 2’ from 1985
Milsap channeled early rock ‘n’ roll melodrama on this number 1 hit, which remains one of his signature songs. Woozy saxophone and sparkling percussion add a retro 1950s touch to the occupied ballad. For an extra authentic feel the song contains elements of the classic “In the Still of the Night” from 1956 of the Five Satins. The number spent two weeks at number 1 on the country map, and also moved to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Adult Contemporary card. “Lost in the Fifties Tonight” Milsap also earned a Grammy trophy for Best Country Vocal Performance.
“Smoky Mountain Rain”
From ‘Greatest Hits’ from 1980
A number 1 hit on both the nationwide and mature contemporary charts, and a Top 40 pop crossover hit, the mid-tempo soft rocker “Smoky Mountain Rain” tells the story of a man hitching a ride back to Tennessee because he had a change of heart about an ex. Unfortunately, his lover has disappeared, and although he understands (“I can’t blame her for letting go / a woman needs someone warm to hold”), he swears to find her: “I feel the rain pass by face flows / I will find her, whatever it takes. “
“(There is) No Get Gettin ‘About Me”
From 1981 ‘There No Gettin’ About Me ‘
Known by a few names over the years (including “No Getting Over Me”), this song was Milsap’s biggest pop crossover hit and landed at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Milsap sings from the vantage point of someone who has been dumped , but know that his ex will not be able to forget him: “I will be the bill you forgot to pay / I will be the dream that keeps you awake / I will be the song on the radio.” On his 2019 duet album, Milsap collaborates with Kacey Musgraves for an inspired modern update; in fact, adding a feminine perspective brings new, richer dimensions to the song.
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