Family bands may be pretty standard in country music, but few have the same success as Alabama. Comprised of cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook, Alabama, started in 1972 in Fort Payne and snuck onto Nashville's country scene in the late 1970s. They eventually signed to RCA Records and became one of the most successful music acts throughout America in the 1980s.
Drummer Mark Herndon rounded out the lineup that created most of the band's blue-collar hits. Along with their most recognizable '80s hits, they released some of their fans' most beloved cuts, like "Words at Twenty Paces," "Can't Keep a Good Man Down," "Take Me Down," "She And I," "Angels Among Us," "Roll On 18 Wheeler" and "Red River." But after an unstoppable decade, their pop-country popularity declined a bit in the 1990s. They drew a lot of flak for releasing a version of the NSYNC hit "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You." But they still released several notable songs, like "Sad Lookin' Moon," the funky "Dancin', Shaggin' On The Boulevard" and "The Cheap Seats."
When the 2000s came along, the band more or less disbanded. They launched a two-year farewell tour in 2002. But they also released several religious and inspirational albums. Their Christmas records contain some of the stronger holiday songs from country artists ("Christmas in Dixie," "Little Drummer Boy," "Silent Night," "Thistlehair The Christmas Bear" and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" in particular). Then, in 2015, they released Southern Drawl without Herndon, a mixed bag that, if anything, reminded the world just how incredible their run in the 1980s was. It was close enough to perfect because it gave us more Alabama. We'll never stop lovin their classic hits.
They amassed an incredible 26 No. 1 hits in the 1980s alone, on their way 33 total number ones on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. So you can understand picking the top 10 Alabama songs isn't easy. Heck, any time a band has multiple "greatest hits" albums, it never is.
10. "High Cotton"
Their 1989 album Southern Star may have been their most successful ever. The platinum album produced four No. 1 singles, including this gem. It helps redefine success and the meaning of wealth. And it's the kind of rockin tune that endeared a lot of fans to Alabama songs.
9. "Love In The First Degree"
Feels So Right produced this beautiful hit, which carries some of the trio's more pop-country flare, complete with a full orchestra. One of the coolest things about this tune is the chord progression and the way they marry the melody with it. The sensational Tim DuBois had a hand in writing it, along with Jim Hurt and Ian Moore. It's one of their more memorable love songs. The album also produced "Old Flame," a similarly sad love song.
8. "Tennessee River"
Believe it or not, it took four albums for Alabama to breakthrough. But when they did, they did it in a big way with "Tennessee River," off their 1980 album My Home's In Alabama. Written exclusively by Randy Owen, this tune became their first every No. 1 and launched their success. It underscores a considerable part of Alabama's overall sound, which is rooted in homeland pride and drawing metaphors between the physical attributes of their home and their preferred way of life. Jason Aldean also did a live version of the song on Alabama And Friends.
7. "The Closer You Get"
"The Closer You Get" off the album of the same name had a life with a few other artists. Exile (whose members wrote it, as well as "Lay Me Down") released the song, as well as Don King, whose version made it to No. 27 on the country charts. Rita Coolidge also recorded it for her 1981 album. But Alabama's 1983 version gave the song that superstar push it needed, and it remained a fan favorite ever since.
6. "Mountain Music"
"Mountain Music" is one of the band's most immediately recognizable songs. Those three-part harmonies at the beginning are pretty much unmistakable. Besides being a massive hit in 1982, Brad Paisley used "Mountain Music" in his sold "Old Alabama." But instead of sampling the song, he brought the band into the studio and had them re-record part of the bridge and add harmonies to the song. It was one of the cooler moments from 2011, with roots 30 years earlier.
5. "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)"
This tune is, ironically, only one of two to make the list from after the 1980s. Released in 1992, "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)" is one of the band's catchiest songs. With those Eagles-esque a cappella harmonies, it was one of their last No. 1's on country radio. Florida Georgia Line briefly revived the tune in 2013 with their cover for the Alabama And Friends tribute album.
4. "Born Country"
"Born Country" was the leading song on their 1991 compilation album Greatest Hits Vol. 2. Written by Byron Hill and John Schweers, it's perhaps the one song that best sums up Alabama's entire ethos.
3. "If You're Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band)"
One of the most immediately recognizable songs in pretty much the entire world, how can you not love a song that begins with "The Eyes Of Texas"? And what's a better summation of country music that the line, "So rosin up that bow for faded love and lets all dance"? Plus, any tune where the crowd gleefully yells, "Cotton-eye Joe!" that isn't the "Cotton-Eyed Joe" deserves a spot on this list.
2. "Dixieland Delight"
The Closer You Get featured some of Alabama's best love songs. From the title track to "Lady Down On Love" and several others. But "Dixieland Delight" is by far their most iconic. That easy-listening feeling mixed with their unusual chorus harmonies makes this one of country music's true staples.
1. "Song Of The South"
"Sweet potato pie and a-shut my mouth!" There's no way there's ever been a song about economic depression that's more catchy and upbeat.
Honorable mention: "I Wanna Come Over," "Once Upon a Lifetime," "Forty Hour Week (For a Livin')," "When We Make Love," "Fallin' Again," "Why Lady Why," "(There's a) Fire in the Night,"
"Forever's as Far As I'll Go," "Jukebox in My Mind" and "Pass It On Down."
This story from 2018 previously ran on Jan. 22, 2020.