Hall of fame vocalist and instrumentalist Ronnie Milsap impacted country, rock and soul music over the decades.
Milsap spent the ’60s and early ’70s as an R&B artist and a Memphis session musician with credits including the piano parts on Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” (1970). He followed Charlie Pride’s advice in 1973 and relocated to Nashville to pursue a country music career. From that point on, he went from a behind-the-scenes player to the household name behind 40 number one country and crossover hits.
Here’s the 10 best songs from his years as a one of country music’s most gifted singers.
10. “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends”
Weepy, sentimental country music doesn’t get much prettier than this recording of a Kris Kristofferson original that’s since been covered by Bobby Bare, Willie Nelson and others.
9. “Daydreams About Night Things”
Here’s another earlier hit that provides some fun wordplay about daytime distractions and requited lust. Its clever lyrics would’ve made for a radio hit in just about any decade before or since its 1975 release.
8. “Any Day Now”
This gorgeous Burt Bacharach co-write off Milsap’s Inside album has it all–piano accompaniment, romantic lyrics, ’80s production experimentation and a fantastic performance by one of country’s most dynamic vocalists.
7. “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning”
One of Milsap’s best romantic songs is the type of open-ended story that might just represent true and lasting love. The same can be said of “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine” and other tender-hearted selections from the singer’s massive back catalog.
6. “Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night)”
At Milsap’s peak, nostalgia for the past often pointed to the 1950’s as presented in Happy Days and American Graffiti. Milsap fed this public need while revisiting his own childhood with this classic single.
5. “(I’m a) Stand By My Woman Man”
Milsap certainly excelled as a genre-defiant crossover crooner, but he really nailed it out of the park when he selected straight-up country songs like this homage to Tammy Wynette. For more unapologetic country, look up “Pure Love,” “You Snap Your Fingers” and “Let My Love Be Your Pillow.”
4. “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World”
Twangy pop in the style of contemporary superstar Kenny Rogers always sounded like pure AM gold on Milsap’s albums. That never rang truer than on this slice of cosmopolitan country music.
3. “Stranger in My House”
There’s something very ’80s about the overall vibes of this Grammy-nominated hit. The rock-influenced use of synthesizers and a guitar solo on this Mike Reid-penned classic about a lover with wandering eyes turned a few heads back in 1983.
2. “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me”
One of the most iconic lines this side of “hello darlin'” comes from this jovial, pop-friendly tale of false bravado. It’s the inverse of a helpless romantic’s musical pleas. “(I’d Be) a Legend in My Time” is a sadder song with an equally quirky title and premise.
1. “Smoky Mountain Rain”
As gorgeous as Milsap’s voice sounds on the slower ballads like “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life,” “Only One Love in My Life,” “Stranger Things Have Happened,” “It Was Almost Like a Song” and the misnomer “Nobody Likes Sad Songs,” the standard for his piano-driven material has to be this more markedly country tale of hitching a ride to East Tennessee.