George Strait at Chicagofest in Chicago, Illinois, August 30, 1985.
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George Strait Songs: His Top 20 Tracks, Ranked

Crafting a playlist of the best George Strait songs without giving in and listing all 60 No. 1 hits (or his 80-plus Top 10 entries) poses a tall task. After all, his sustained greatness as a song interpreter for some of country music's greatest wordsmiths —from Dean Dillon to John Prine— and occasional turn as a hit songwriter made for what feels like a bottomless well of truly timeless music.

Here's Wide Open Country's go-to jams from a catalog so deep and rewarding that it's worth wondering if the original Strait Out of the Box set of 4 CDs counts as one desert island disc.

20. "Baby Blue"

Ebet Roberts/Getty Images) UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: USA Photo of George STRAIT

Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Strait sounds as smooth as a throwback pop crooner without it overshadowing his neo-traditionalist mission throughout one of his finest vocal performances. Though it has never been confirmed, this No. 1 from 1987 has long been rumored to be a tribute to Strait's daughter Jenifer, who died on June 25, 1986 at age 13 in a car accident.

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19. "Troubadour"

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 5:  George Strait performs onstage at the "37th Annual CMA Awards" at the Grand Ole Opry House November 5, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee

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"Troubadour" addresses Strait's 21st century role as an elder statesperson of country music. It gave longtime fans flashbacks to Strait's earliest success with his Ace in the Hole band while introducing a new wave of fans to a true living legend.

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18. "I Just Want to Dance With You"

George Strait performs as part of the George Strait Music Festival at the Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1998 in Oakland, California.

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There's a surrealistic charm to "I Just Want to Dance With You" that's unlike any Strait hit before or since it topped the country charts in 1998. That's because John Prine wrote the song with Roger Cook, with Prine recording it himself for his 1986 album German Afternoons.

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17. "Unwound"

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of George Strait

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The future King of Country Music's first single off his debut studio album for MCA, 1981's Strait Country, set the pace for a career rooted in Texas' dance halls yet accessible enough to shatter Nashville's glass ceiling. It gets the nod here over such early-career high points as Strait's first No. 1, 1982's "Fool Hearted Memory."

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16. "You Look So Good in Love"

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 26: George Strait performs during the George Strait Music Festival at Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1998 in Oakland, California.

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This No. 1 from 1983 got cut that same year by one of the greatest singers of love songs, Mickey Gilley. Yet those swoon-worthy lyrics ("He must have stolen some stars from the sky/ And gave them to you to wear in your eyes") sound even better when sung by Strait.

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15. "I Hate Everything"

Musician George Strait performs onstage at George Strait's 'The Cowboy Rides Away Tour' final stop at AT&T Stadium at AT&T Stadium on June 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for George Strait)

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for George Strait

Despite this one's hyper-negative title and the heartbreak festering inside both main characters' hearts, our protagonist ultimately comes away ready to repair a fractured marriage. On a lighter note, this has got to be the first Strait story-song (courtesy of co-writers Keith Stegall and Gary Harrison) that incorporates a cell phone.

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14. "I Saw God Today"

George Strait Tour Dates

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In this modern classic from 2008, Strait sings of a dad-to-be who sees signs of a creator God everywhere he looks during the buildup to the birth of his daughter. It proved Strait's pliability to a song that could've worked as the sentimental change-of-pace on an album by someone like Blake Shelton.

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13. "I Cross My Heart"


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First dance selections for country music-loving newlyweds got narrowed down with the arrival of 1992's Pure Country soundtrack. As if alternate universe John Doe as alternate universe Strait's drummer wasn't reason enough to hold King George's big screen debut in high regard.

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12. "Carrying Your Love With Me"

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 24: George Strait performs at the San Jose Arena on April 24, 1994 in San Jose California.

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One of Strait's best love songs —which clearly is high praise— brings a summery flavor with its clear Tejano music influence. It tells of a frequent traveler (probably a touring musician) with someone special waiting a home following a weeks-long absence.

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11. "Blue Clear Sky"

?-Country music legend George Strait headlines the country music festival held Saturday night at Edison Field. Other performers included Faith Hill, John Micheal Montgomery and Tim McGraw.

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Strait didn't suddenly sound like a throwback to a prior era due to the trending sounds of the '90s. Instead, he cranked out hits on par with those of Clint Black, Mark Chesnutt, future "Murder on Music Row" collaborator Alan Jackson and other like-minded country artists. For proof of this, check out the 1996 album Clear Blue Sky and its three Top 5 singles: the title track, "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" and "Carried Away."

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10. "Here For a Good Time"

American Country musician George Strait plays guitar as he performs onstage at the Tweeter Center, Tinley Park, Illinois, May 5, 2001.

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Not every worthwhile country song needs to be about heartbreak, home or Heaven. Some moods call for lyrics about guilt-free fun, and Strait delivers that here courtesy of the singer himself and two co-writers: his son, Bubba Strait and Dillon.

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9. "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?"


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Sanger and Darlene Shafer co-write "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" wasn't new when it became a title track for Strait in 1984. It appeared on a Moe Bandy album seven years prior and also got released in '84 by Keith Whitley. Yet this brilliant string of Texas metaphors needed the right Lone Star native to become immortal, and it got just that in King George.

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8. "All My Ex's Live In Texas"


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The title "All My Ex's Live in Texas" and the song's chorus have become as synonymous with roots-bound country music as those of Hank Williams' "Tear in My Beer" and Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again." It's that woven into the fabric of American popular music, in part because it's one of the better hits from the past 40 years to incorporate elements of western swing.

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7. "Give It Away"

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: Country western great George Strait at  Game Six of the 2022 World Series between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park on November 05, 2022 in Houston, Texas.

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On Strait's greatest 21st century hit and 41st No. 1, he mirrors its co-writer, fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member "Whisperin'" Bill Anderson, by adopting (and nailing) a conversational delivery style. Anderson co-wrote about the divorce settlement blues with Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson.

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6. "Ocean Front Property"

Photo of George Strait

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"Ocean Front Property" employs downright lies to deny the narrator's true feelings. It's a classic anti-confession and just one of many tongue-in-cheek (if not completely smart alec) songs in Strait's catalog.

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5. "The Chair"

Early in Strait's mainstream career (1985's Something Special, to be exact), this single with no chorus set him apart as an exceptional singer with an ear for exceptional songs. Dillon co-wrote this tale of a romance sparked at a honky-tonk with Hank Cochran, a veteran whose credits already included Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces."

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4. "Check Yes Or No"

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 17: George Strait attends the 2019 Nashville Songwriters Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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One of the most moving country love songs of the past 40 years, "Check Yes or No" likens a relationship with a childhood sweetheart with the childlike naivety of the couple's earliest playground encounters. This CMA and ACM Single of the Year is packed with the sweet sentimentality so many listeners crave from country hitmakers.

Plus, its music video is downright adorable and established Strait as a '90s country fashion plate.

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3. "Love Without End, Amen"

Miranda Lambert (L) and George Strait perform onstage during George Strait's Hand in Hand Texas benefit concert; Strait and special guests Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Lyle Lovett and Robert Early Keen perform in concert at the Majestic Theatre on September 12, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - Rick Diamond/Getty Images for George Strait

Sticking with the topic of sweet sentimentality, Strait sings not of romantic love here but of the deep reverence felt for one's earthly and Heavenly father. The Rolls Royce of Aaron Barker songs broke new ground for Strait in 1990 when it became his first multi-week No. 1.

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2. "Write This Down"

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 07: George Strait performs onstage during the 54th Academy Of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 07, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Strait did not lose commercial steam as the 20th century reached its end, as evidenced in 1999 by this No. 1 country hit and Top 20 entry on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. His creative brilliance as a song interpreter continued, as well, as backed up by this undeniably fun interpretation of a song penned by Dana Hunt Black ("Check Yes or No") and Kent Robbins (The Judds' "Love is Alive").

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1. "Amarillo By Morning"

SInger George Straight poses for a photograph June 1998 in Atlanta, GA.

Photo by Pam Francis/Liaison

"Amarillo By Morning" pretty much epitomizes what makes Strait's songs so timeless, from his inviting baritone delivery to lyrical themes relatable to tender-hearted listeners. Amazingly enough, the Terry Stafford co-write has never reached No. 1.

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Honorable mention songs: "Famous Last Words of a Fool," "The Cowboy Rides Away," "It Just Comes Natural," "Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye," ""If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," "Right or Wrong," "She'll Leave You With a Smile," "You Know Me Better Than That" and "The Best Day."



Editor's Note: This story originally ran in 2016 and was updated on May 18, 2023.

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