The 10 Best '80s Country Music Songs, Ranked

Entertainers Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton pose at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, Ca., Nov. 15, 1984. (AP Photo/Wally Fong)

The '80s definitely had more to offer than leg warmers, acid-washed jeans and everyone of a certain age's personal nightmarish collage of regrettable photos. The decade also gave birth to some of the most iconic songs in country music like Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." And let's not forget the classic film, Urban Cowboy.

These 10 songs were at the top of the country charts during their time, but many have been covered over the years by other incredible artists.  And of course it'd take a Top 100 playlist to not skip great material by  the decade's established (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Conway Twitty, Don Williams, Barbara Mandrell, Crystal Gayle, Loretta Lynn) and emerging (Juice Newton, Dwight Yoakam, Garth Brooks) superstars.

10. "Smoky Mountain Rain," Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap's 16th No. 1 hit was released in 1980 and remains one of his greatest songs. It topped the country charts as well as the adult contemporary charts. In 2010 it was even named Tennessee's eighth state song by the Tennessee Assembly.

9. "Always on My Mind," Willie Nelson

First recorded by  B.J. Thomas in 1969, this song has been covered over the years by Elvis Presley, John Wesley Ryles and the Pet Shop Boys. Willie Nelson's 1982 rendition won him a Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. The song went platinum and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

8. "Forever and Ever, Amen," Randy Travis

This country hit won a Grammy for Best Country & Western Song in 1987 as well as an Academy of Country Music award for Song of the Year. It hit No. 1 on the country charts, becoming Randy Travis' third chart-topping single. Travis has continually helped bring traditional country music to the spotlight throughout his career.

7. "A Country Boy Can Survive," Hank Williams, Jr.

Though the song only hit No. 2 on the charts, it remains one of Hank Williams Jr.'s most loved hits and one of the top country songs of its time. Following 9/11, he even re-recorded the song with the new title of "America Will Survive".

6. "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ole Days)," The Judds

"Grandpa" was The Judds' sixth No. 1 single and is considered one of the greatest country songs of all time. The emotional song that tells of the decay of traditional values throughout the narrator's lifetime remains a classic. Though the mother-daughter duo had many other hits during their reign of the '80s, this is widely considered one of their best country songs.

5. "Mountain Music," Alabama

Written by Alabama lead singer Randy Owen, this 1982 hit was No. 1 on the country charts. Apparently, it took Owen three years to write because he wanted to incorporate the country roots of his childhood in the form of a song.

4. "When You Say Nothing At All," Keith Whitley

Starting with Keith Whitley's 1988 rendition which hit the top of the charts, this song has received success with its covers over the years. The 1995 cover by Alison Krauss gave her a top 10 country hit. It was also covered by Irish singer-songwriter Ronan Keating in 1999, receiving chart-topping success in the U.K.

3. "All My Exes Live in Texas," George Strait

One of the most recognized country singers of all time, George Strait has had countless successes over the years. His 1987 hit reached No. 1 on the charts and earned him a Grammy nomination. The iconic American song is about a man who escapes to Tennessee to avoid his four exes who live in different cities in Texas.

2. "Islands in the Stream," Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

This 1983 duet with Dolly Parton was written by the Bee Gees originally for Marvin Gaye but was transitioned to be on Kenny Rogers' album Eyes That See in the Dark. The country-pop song hit No. 1 on the country and adult contemporary billboards and is widely considered one of the best country duets of all time. It's also been certified platinum and remains a beloved hit, frequently used in TV and films today.

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1. "He Stopped Loving Her Today," George Jones

Considered one of the greatest songs of all time, this put George Jones back on the map as his first No. 1 song in six years. Jones won a 1980 Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance as well as song of the year in 1980 and 1981. He is still remembered as one of the greatest country artists of his time.


This story previously ran on March 20, 2020.

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The 10 Best '80s Country Music Songs, Ranked