Too many times people give up if they don't immediately find success. But sometimes a lot of hard work really works out in the end. We believe in happy endings, and it's clear that singer Earl Thomas Conley fought hard for his incredible career as a country singer-songwriter.
An Unexpected Success Story
Right from the start, the Portsmouth, Ohio native wasn't sure if he'd make it in country music. He'd been trying to make it in Nashville, playing in clubs at night and working blue-collar jobs during the day to support himself. He later moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked at a steel mill. Luckily, that led to meeting producer Nelson Larkin, who helped Conley get signed to an independent record label, GRT. That was a close one. What would the '80s have been without Conley burning up the country charts?
After returning to Nashville and working hard for a few more years, he was signed by Warner Bros Records, and that's when he was really able to take off. His first top 40 hit on the Billboard charts was "Dreamin's All I Do," and he didn't stop there, also recording multiple albums with RCA. While most of his greatest hits were in the 1980s, he continued to perform as well as write songs for other artists. He co-wrote "All Over Me" for Blake Shelton in 2002, which was a top 20 Billboard Hot Country Songs entry for Shelton.
Conley passed away following months of hospice care on April 10, 2019, after suffering from a condition similar to dementia. He's remembered as one of the most beloved and talented American country artists of the past three decades. Here are our picks for the 10 best Earl Thomas Conley songs.
Honorable mention songs include "Angel in Disguise," "Chance of Lovin' You," "Love Don't Care (Whose Heart It Breaks)," 'I Have Loved You Girl (But Not Like This Before)," "What She Is (Is a Woman in Love)," Emmylou Harris duet "We Believe in Happy Endings" and Anita Pointer collaboration "Too Many Times."
10. "Brotherly Love"
The love between brothers is celebrated by Conley here in this duet with Keith Whitley. "Brotherly Love," initially recorded by Moe Bandy, was recorded by Conley and Whitley in 1987 and released in 1991 after Whitley's death.
9. "I Can't Win For Losin' You"
Conley's 1986 hit "Can't Win For Losin' You" is a heartbreaking song about lost love that will give you all the country feels.
8. "Heavenly Bodies"
One of Conley's best songs, the 1982 tune "Heavenly Bodies" takes us to the stars and back.
7. "Fire and Smoke"
"Fire and Smoke" has classic written all over it. Conley wrote and recorded the song, which was the second single from his album of the same name.
6. "Once in a Blue Moon"
This song about a woman's unending patience with her good-timin' man spent 14 weeks on the country charts.
5. "Don't Make it Easy for Me"
Written by Conley and Randy Scruggs, "Don't Make It Easy For Me" captured Conley's ability to bridge country and pop without missing a beat.
4. "Somewhere Between Right and Wrong"
Most things fall in the grey area. The debate about Earl Thomas Conley's brilliance is not one of those things. This 1982 song was Conley's second No. 1 hit.
3. "What I'd Say"
"What-if" questions haunt us all, and this 1988 song captures that feeling perfectly. Gary Allan later covered the song for his 2001 album Alright Guy.
2. "Nobody Falls Like a Fool"
"Nobody Falls Like a Fool" is the perfect song for a hopeless country romantic.
1. "Holding Her and Loving You"
One of the biggest hits of his career, "Holding Her and Loving You," really is the essential Earl Thomas Conley song that everyone needs to listen to.
This story previously ran on March 26, 2020.