Back in 1981, Reba McEntire was enjoying the success of her third studio album, Feel the Fire. The record’s first single, “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven,” climbed into the top ten of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and became one of her biggest career hits at the time. The song’s success led her to an invitation to make her debut performance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Dressed in a shimmery blue gown, the Oklahoma-native showed off her impressive vocal skills during the rendition. The appearance marked a time in McEntire’s early career when her talents were minimized by mostly-overproduced pop country ballads that had become popular in the mid-1970s. A few years later, McEntire would cut ties with her label Mercury and move to MCA Nashville Records for her seventh album, Just a Little Love. The record featured a more traditional sound, which would evolve into the slightly pop-tinged, modern style of country that McEntire has become known for.
Although it may not be her best career single, the performance gives fans a glimpse of the star just before she found her footing and became the superstar she is today.
Click below to watch Reba McEntire perform “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven” at her debut appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.