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Songs You Forgot You Loved: The Desert Rose Band’s ‘He’s Back and I’m Blue’

Curb Records

Chris Hillman, a major player in the history of country-inspired rock music, took his harmony-laden sound to its rightful spot atop the country charts with the Desert Rose Band’s 1988 single “He’s Back and I’m Blue.”

A member of the legendary country rock bands the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, Hillman had been blurring genre boundaries for over 20 years out in California. He formed the Desert Rose Band in 1985 with multi-instrumentalists John Jorgenson and Herb Pederson. The trio fronted a formidable band, primed to crack the country charts at a time when the business was open to change.

The band’s 1987 self-titled debut for MCA/Curb and its use of Laurel Canyon-style musical arrangements and vocal harmonies arrived when a wide variety of sounds got a fair shake on the country charts. There was a moment in time when artists as varied as Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Forester Sisters and Skip Ewing got a shot at sharing chart space with more established names. If Tyler Childers and Blackberry Smoke took turns at number one in between Sam Hunt hits, it’d be the late ’80s all over again. Trends weren’t really taking hold, and the next big thing usually got a shot at a top five hit.

“He’s Back and I’m Blue,” a single off the band’s first album, became the group’s first of two number one singles (the second being “I Still Believe in You,” a Hillman co-write off 1988 sophomore album Running). It was written by Michael Woody, the co-writer of Barbara Mandrell’s “My Train of Thought” and Steve Earle’s “The Rain Came On Down,” and Robert Anderson.

The song’s fairly simple premise–the narrator watches tensely as his one of his love’s old flames reenters the picture–was pop enough for the age of the Bellamy Brothers yet Byrdsian enough for fans of Hillman, Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn.

Hillman taking part in a chart-topping country single with a deserving song doubled as a lifetime achievement award, of sorts. Out West where the lines between rockers, punks and cowboys remains blurred, Hillman set a high standard of cool over the past 50-plus years for Dwight Yoakam and others to chase. Considering his impact with the Byrds alone, Hillman set the groundwork for country-rock and a lot of what we now call Americana, making him a welcome addition to the top of the country music heap.

“He’s Back and I’m Blue” Lyrics

You turn away, you won’t look at me
You seem to think that I just can’t see
I was hoping he was out of your heart
But he’s still calling you
Now he’s back and I’m blue

I forgot about yesterday
Those memories seemed so far away
All it took was just a whisper to start
The flame burning anew
Now he’s back and I’m blue

Ooh, that old feeling
Filling up your dreams again
Oh, it comes stealing
Taking you away

I guess there’s nothing left for me to do
I can’t stop him from living in you
‘Cause the past can only pull us apart
Still you carry it through
Now he’s back and I’m blue

Oh, that old feeling
Filling up your dreams again
Ooh, it comes stealing
Taking you away

You turn away, you won’t look at me
You seem to think that I just can’t see
I was hoping he was out of your heart
But he’s still calling you

Now he’s back and I’m blue

Now Watch: Underrated Country Love Songs from the 80s

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Songs You Forgot You Loved: The Desert Rose Band’s ‘He’s Back and I’m Blue’